In an earlier post I talked about developing 21st century leaders via a comprehensive approach to leadership development. Getting to that point takes vision, commitment from senior leaders, involvement from the entire team, and resources to properly support an integrated talent management approach and “deliberate practice” by participants. It also requires lots of teamwork because transforming peoples’ leadership capability has the potential to transform the overall capability of the organization, but only if people work together to support each other and the collective effort.
One aspect of talent management programs is the concept of identifying high performing, high potential employees early in their career and accelerating their development through structured activities. There’s a really thoughtful article by Dr. John Sullivan sharing reasons organizations traditionally use to not share this designation with the employees themselves. Without stealing his thunder, here are the classic reasons given:
  • The probability of poaching increases
  • Increased frustration and turnover if opportunities don’t follow
  • Employees may not take development efforts seriously
  • Confusion over where to improve
  • Reduced effort after “making it”
  • Ego issues
  • Increased expectation of promotions
  • Increased expectation of more money and exposure
  • Career micromanagement may make them dependent
  • There may be sabotage
  • A HiPo designation may be permanent
  • Openness makes it difficult to later drop individuals from the list
  • Managers may not accurately identify high-potentials
  • Increased hoarding
  • Frustration among those not designated
  • The potential for class warfare
  • Others will treat them differently
  • Increased gravitation toward HiPo-rich groups
These things happen; I’ve seen it personally. As a society, however, there is no question in my mind that we’re moving towards more transparency so the question for leaders is how to have clear expectations and honest, supportive conversations about desire, potential, and performance. Things change and people would do well to frame these dialogues as current thinking that will naturally evolve with the business and employee.