Why Can’t Executives Agree on their High Potential Talent?

Heated Talent Review

In many of the talent review discussions I have facilitated at the top of organizations, I have been struck by how difficult it is for leadership teams to agree on who at one or two levels  level below them are their best bets for the future.  Often times it is because they are all using their own definitions of potential.  Some are touting the results their candidates achieve, while others focus on the leadership behaviors theirs exhibit.   Some highlight their candidate’s ability to see the big picture and handle complexity while others emphasize the experiences their candidates have had to prepare them for the next role.  So who is right?  All of them!  But until they start making “apples to apples” comparisons, little progress will be made in these discussions.

When facilitating talent discussions, it is much easier to come to agreement if you clearly define the four aspects of talent that need to be assessed and discussed (see below).  Then compare your candidates on each of these aspects so you can agree on both the strengths and the gaps of each candidate.  Otherwise, it is like trying to agree on which person is bigger, when one is measuring height and another is measuring weight.

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To foster more productive talent review discussions, install a common language for assessing and discussing talent using the following four definitions:

  • Performance—The extent to which the person achieved their objectives (“The What”) and demonstrated the appropriate leadership behaviors. (“The How”).  Most agree that both are important and neither is sufficient for sustainable performance.
  • Potential—A person’s capacity to be a top performer in a more senior role.  Do they have the mental horsepower to handle the greater complexity, the emotional intelligence to lead and influence others, the adaptability to manage change and handle stress, and the learning agility to learn from experience?
  • Readiness—The extent to which a person has had the experiences necessary to mold their raw potential into the capabilities required to handle the additional challenges and responsibilities at the next level. 
  • Fit—The extent to which a person is a good fit for the organization’s culture, leadership team, and current business situation.

Next Monday: How do you communicate to your High Potentials?

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