Expert Resources

Unlocking Potential

Why understanding and identifying the difference between high potential and high performance is critical to both our personal and business success.

Carol Yang

Unlocking Potential

“There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do” – Henry Ford

Barely a day seems to go by where we don’t hear about the volatility and uncertainty of the business landscape, the economy and the employment market.

Businesses say they are struggling to find the right people to help them navigate this ever changing landscape; whilst individuals say they are struggling to find the right roles and/or organisations that allow them to showcase their talents and have real influence and impact.

PWC’s recent global survey found that 63% or CEO’s and business leaders don’t believe they have the talent needed to support their future growth. Further studies indicate that almost the same percentage of employees don’t believe that their managers and leaders understand their real capability or future career ambitions.

There is no doubt that this misalignment is hurting individual careers and impeding business growth. In a landscape characterized by what is now being commonly referred to as VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – we all need to rethink about how we develop both our own careers and those of the people that we lead. If we don’t we will find ourselves unable to navigate what is currently in play or what lies ahead.

The bottom line is individual’s need to get better at showcasing their potential; and organisations need to get better at identifying it.

With research suggesting that the top 10% of employees are more than 2.5 times productive and efficient than their counterparts, there is no doubt that showcasing and spotting real potential is critical to future proofing our success.

So how do we spot it and what are it’s key indicators? I particularly like Claudio Fernandez-Araoz’s (from global search firm Egon Zender) identification of the following 5 key elements.

As you read through them I would encourage you to take a moment to think about how you showcase each element. For those of you who are responsible for growing business capability and talent pipelines consider them as a guide to spotting potential in your team and organisation.

  1. Motivation: In possession of a fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. Individuals with high potential are ambitious big picture thinkers who are driven to leave their mark by continually improving on what and how they deliver. They are not driven by selfish motives but rather are keen to contribute for the greater good of their team and organisation.
  1. Curiosity: A thirst for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. Individuals are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with merely maintaining the status quo.
  1. Insight: The ability to collect, interpret and apply new information that invariably brings with it new possibilities. People with high potential know how to navigate change and make sense of emerging trends, technologies and practices.
  1. Engagement: A knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people. Individuals possess the capability to harness capability, motivations to drive collective outcomes and results.
  1. Determination: A dogged persistence and wherewithal to pursue difficult goals despite the challenges and roadblocks that may lie ahead. People with high determination also know how to ‘bounce back’ and recover from frustration, disappointment, failure and adversity.

It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between high potential and high performance. Mistaking the difference can be costly for all involved. No doubt we have all worked with or heard of the top sales rep or technical lead who is promoted to manager and in the process struggles to transition from being the best in their field to helping others become their best. The results are often sliding performance and heightened frustrations for all involved, which ultimately hurt morale and drive turnover.

Converting high potential to high performance is always going to be the key to maximizing growth and opportunity – be it business or personal. To do this we need to start considering and offering development opportunities that push us out of our comfort zones. For it is when we operate outside of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves that the five elements of potential can be adopted and showcased…. And where the real magic happens.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot – The Career Diplomat

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