Identifying High Potential in Emerging Leaders. Single Skier High Ski Jump

25 Oct 2019

5 Ways to Identify ‘High Potential’ in Emerging Leaders

As the end of the year approaches, it is time for many businesses to complete performance appraisals for their staff. For many leaders and managers, it means having to rate a small number of employees as ‘high potential’ – those that are most likely to be recommended for leadership positions or leadership training in the next 12 months.

I think this is pertinent for all business leaders – from small businesses to large corporates. How do we rate high potential?

These are the 5 criteria I have used to help rate high-potential employees:

1. They show drive to do what others won’t do.

I attended a seminar by social media expert Frank Furness about 2 years ago – he showed the audience so many fantastic things they were almost too numerous to count. Someone asked ‘Aren’t you worried that someone will take everything that you do and copy it, stealing your IP?’

I loved his reply (paraphrasing): ‘I know just how hard it is to do what I have been doing, and 98% of people won’t try or will find it too hard to copy day after day, so I am not afraid to give away IP.’

High potential people see that something is hard and go for it anyway.

2. They ask questions to genuinely learn more.

You can tell when someone is keen and has drive – they listen intently, ask insightful questions and are actively learning all the time.

3. They have demonstrated an ability to deal with adversity / stress.

High-performance employees have the ability to manage difficult workloads and they have shouldered the burden for not only themselves, but others as well.

This does not mean they try to be super human – high potential employees are aware of their limitations, can be open and honest with their short-comings and can be vulnerable / transparent enough to speak openly about this with those around them.

4. They don’t whinge, blame others or make excuses when things get difficult.

High potential people have the ability to ‘get over it’ quickly and move on to the next task. They don’t dismiss the difficult things, they learn from them.

In addition, high-potential employees own their mistakes. They take responsibility for their actions and don’t seek to blame others for their actions, make excuses for what could have been done or ‘beat themselves up’ for what could have been done.

5. Get back up again after falling down (or making a mistake).

These areas show qualities of strength, determination, drive and desire – essential qualities (rather than skills) of a good leader that can’t be taught – they are either innate qualities of a person or have been forced through circumstance.

How do you rate high potential? What makes high potential people stand out for you?