Can a High Performer Be a High Potential, Too?

HiPo — it’s short for “high potential,” and a buzz word today among HR professionals.

But, what is a high potential? Here is my definition:

  • High Performer — An employee who excels in their role and consistently over-delivers.
  • High Potential — An employee who has the innate skills and abilities to be a leader for the company.

Yes, high performing employees are not necessarily high potential talent.

The best employees may not make the strongest leaders

Sports analogies may be clichés, but this one works: The best players don’t always make the best coaches — and the best employees don’t always make the strongest leaders.

A Gallup study, The State of the American Manager 2015, found that only 10 percent of employees possess the talent to be a great manager. So, how can companies find the needle in haystack when there is an overwhelming amount of hay?

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They need to correctly identify their high potentials, those employees with the innate skills and abilities to be a leader.

And how can companies distinguish between a high performer and a high potential? Here’s a hint: tenure and longevity have nothing to do with it.

6 questions you really should be asking

Before you siphon off your high potentials into a separate track for management, consider the following:

  1. Do they add value beyond their role? While a high potential may excel in their role, they also bring other strengths to the table. They could be an accountant, who is also a subject matter expert on the CRM system, or they could be an IT manager who also has creative ideas on how to improve the culture. They are not limited by their role or title. They want to make the company and themselves better and are always thinking of new ideas.
  2. Are they a team player? High potentials will be the next leaders of the organization. They need to have the respect of their peers as well as management, and they need to understand that the team is always stronger than the individual. Although their role may not touch every part of the organization, they find a way to interact with everyone and develop relationships. Relationships indicate trust, mutual respect and strong communication, essential components of management.
  3. Do they motivate others? If someone can motivate their peers, they can usually motivate a team. This means they understand motivators are different for everyone and have taken the time to develop relationships with their peers Although they don’t yet hold a management position, they are looked at as a leader. They have the ability to rally the troops, and get people behind a cause.
  4. Can they see the bigger picture? High potentials recognize opportunity; they see where the company is going and how they fit into that. They see the struggles that lie ahead and proactively think of solutions to overcome them
  5. Are they curious? High potentials want to know how they can grow and improve, they want to understand the why behind everything and they seek to understand things that aren’t in their wheelhouse.
  6. Do you think they are a high potential? Seek input from other leaders at the organization. If the consensus is this person has the skills and qualities of a high potential, it’s likely they do.

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