Are you kidding me? Can you believe this is even a topic of discussion in 2015? Recently I became aware that some leaders continue to wonder about this. So here are my thoughts.
The answer is, “Yes,” by the way. But let’s not naively believe that this makes the leader’s life problem-free. Every strategy brings benefits and drawbacks. Would you rather come to work every day dealing with the problems presented by leading a group of mediocre performers, or the problems associated with a group of high-potential people? I prefer the latter.
What problems do high potential people present? The most fundamental challenge for the leader is to answer the following questions:
- How do I keep this person engaged and excited to come to work?
- How do I help them explore their potential?
- How do I help them progress rapidly?
- How do I avoid feeling threatened by them?
- How do I keep them from being recruited away?
Most importantly, cultivate close relationships with your high potential players. The closer you are, the more influence you have. The closer you are the more you’ll know about their needs, passions and aspirations. Make it clear that you seek their greatest good. Extend yourself to ensure that their needs are being met, and that they see a very desirable future in your company.
Tell them clearly you see their potential and your goal is to help them progress as rapidly as possible. Make sure you know what they want to learn and help them learn it. Take risks on them. Give them assignments that require them to stretch. While doing this, express your sincere belief and expectation that they’ll perform with excellence. Make sure these assignments enable them to add significant value to the organization.
Empower them to make decisions and try their ideas. Not only will this accelerate their growth, but also it’ll contribute to your growth. You must be willing to learn from them.
Be their champion. Celebrate their successes.
Don’t control them. Lead. Teach. Influence. But don’t control. Accept that they’re going to make some mistakes. If you control them, the outcomes are your outcomes, not theirs. No growth will result. High potential people hate micro management. Even if you disagree with a particular decision, ask yourself, “Does this decision bring the risk of great harm to the organization?” If not, let them proceed despite your misgivings.
If you’re threatened by high potential players, recognize that feeling threatened is only a feeling. It does not have to control your behavior. No matter how you feel, you can choose the right behaviors. It’s not always easy, but it can be done.
Great leaders want high potential players whose performance elevates the entire organization. They want to develop people who will lead the organization to greater heights after they’re gone. This requires recruitment of people who will be better than they are.
Thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.