By Amy Dano

Enjoy the third installment in our High Potential Leaders series by Dr Gail Johnson Morris.

You probably want HiPo leaders who demonstrate great performance now, with the potential to rise within your organization.  Several CTO’s use the Corporate Executive Board’s definition for HiPo, “the high potential employee is someone with the ability, engagement, and aspiration to rise to and succeed in more senior, critical positions.”  Many CTO’s also use the 9-box evaluation of potential and performance to identify HiPos. Those CTOs underscored their assumption that the HiPo’s current assignment performance was stellar. 

When you elect to use a 9-box grid, see insert below, calibrate as a leadership team on how to place and how to engage leaders in each category. The leadership calibration sessions catapult your leadership team forward to lead consistently which eliminates a major complaint of HiPos.  Building on the consistency, your leaders can finally align on what development to target; create opportunities to lead; and initiate performance enhancement programs to target each category. When assigning leaders to boxes, be aware that their current performance may not be stellar if the HiPo recently moved into a more challenging assignment.  Monitor their performance closely or your HiPos may slide into entitlement and begin delivering mediocre contributions!

Learning Agility

Look for HiPos who thrive in complex roles and who display learning agility.  Learning agility describes the cluster of personal skills that allow for innovative and flexible responses to complex challenges especially inside evolving environmental stressors.  Learning agility means HiPos master their fear of unanticipated change and lean into change, making learning agility a good predictor for future global leaders.  “People who are learning agile: seek out new experiences to learn from; enjoy complex problems and challenges associated with new experiences because they enjoy making sense of them; and perform better because they easily incorporate new experience into their leadership stance.  A person who is learning agile has more lessons, more tools, and more solutions to draw on when faced with new business challenges (Hallenbeck, Swisher, & Orr, July 2011).

Given the realities of work place complexity, you want to develop leaders for roles that do not exist today and to anticipate the experience and acumen expected of leaders stepping into the global, senior roles of the future.  As you consider the influence that both globalization and decentralization have on your current and future human capital requirements, it is quite possible that your new HiPo program could produce leaders capable of galvanizing and mobilizing the collective efforts of your entire global network.

3 Best Practices for HiPo Selection:

1. Working from your thoughtful recommendations, have your executive team agree on the selection criteria and size of every HiPo pool.  Document any agreements!

2. For easiest administration, your new HiPo program can be integrated into your current annual talent optimization process.

3. Critical to HiPo program authenticity, and to avoid the pitfalls of entitlement from the HiPos, ongoing annual impact identifiers ensure all HiPos remain motivated and worthy of the time and resource investment.  If your line managers unequipped for difficult conversations, consider targeted development such as Learn2’s ‘Leadership Voice™’ with a skilled coach supporting them for this responsibility directly.




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