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Three Ways to Develop High Potentials


Once you’ve identified high potentials in your company, you want to do what is best to turn them into the best leaders they can be, rather than waste that potential on leadership-building methods that may not work. There are many ways to successfully do this, and some of the assessments I’ve discussed here may help you in deciding which methods are best for each of your high potentials; different approaches may be needed for each individual to best suit their values and their learning style.

According to Nathan Hiller, director of the Florida International University Center for Leadership High Potential Program, it is important to begin the journey of high-potential development with self-awareness. “One of the key mechanisms for developing high-potential talent is encouraging critical self insight,” he says; as leadership is about influencing others, you have to know yourself and your own motivations before you can influence others by utilizing their motivations.

After that journey begins, you can use these other helpful methods as part of your systematic development program for high potentials.

1. Have a succession plan in place

High potentials are the leaders of the future, so identifying their future leadership position or function long before they reach it is essential for a focused and relevant development. As we face an entire generation of baby boomers in leadership and executive positions about to retire, it is crucial to have a plan for who will be taking the reins, and making sure that those individuals are fully prepared to take the responsibilities of their role. Discuss with higher management where high potentials you have identified may fit best, and then tailor their job responsibilities to stretch them beyond their current role into experiences that will help them in their role in the future.

2. Mentoring and executive coaching

It is important to choose a good mentor for your high potential—someone who will guide them in the journey of becoming the best leader they can be. A study by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) revealed that approximately 71% of the Fortune 500 use internal mentoring programs to develop high-potential employees. Through pairing with internal senior mentors, high-potentials are introduced to years of knowledge and experience. With the understanding they gain from seeing leadership in action, high potentials can better adjust their habits to fit the role of a leader. Further along in the high potential development process, executive coaching may be of use. Executive coaching helps to make sure that a high potential stays on track to leadership, using reviews, classes, and counseling to clarify goals, improve decision making and prioritizing, enhance presentation skills, reduce stress, and cooperate more successfully with colleagues.

3. Job rotation

A leader cannot be solely focused on their own job; they have to know and understand how the company works as a whole. This is where job rotation can be used to develop a high potential into someone who truly understands who they will be leading in the future. This can mean shifting between teams or departments –shifting across functional lines can be especially helpful— to help them grasp what each part of the company needs . This is best accomplished through a formal rotational assignment program managed by HR, which will ensure that the high potential receives the most well-rounded and productive job rotational program that best develops them.

What development strategies do you plan to implement at your company to systematically groom high potentials for future leadership?

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