I’ve been talking to several HR friends and clients about developing High Potential people (Hi-Po’s). The comments they make are similar, here are a few examples:
- 'We have differences of opinion on what we mean by Hi-Po to begin with!’
- ‘I am not sure we really know what do with a Hi-Po once we have agreed someone is Hi-Po.’
- ‘I suspect we are not very good at differentiating needs. Our development plans do look like one-size-fits-all.’
I want to start by asking a question that is not often asked:
- ‘What is it like for the Hi-Po person?’
Why is this a useful question? Because the future is going to be about competing for talented people as much as competing for customers.
We need to understand more about the psychology of a Hi-Po person if we are to attract, retain and maximize the value in our talent pool.
There are numerous ways of defining a ‘Hi-Po Person’ and I realize I will be making some assumptions: I will focus on younger people selected for a career path, who are usually from a University route, and make a few generalizations, although there is supporting research.
What do Hi-Po people possess and what is their experience of life so far? And this starts with a big USUALLY they:
- Are above average intelligence, quick to solve problems, quick to learn new concepts.
- Have excellent verbal and numerical reasoning, they see solutions easily.
- Will be ambitious and have high expectations of themselves and you as an employer.
- Have expectation that promotions and assume career success will follow.
- They have found academic study relatively easy.
- Have learnt how to relate to other senior, intellectually clever, ambitious people.
- Work hard, but success has been more guaranteed with this hard work than for others.
You usually select Hi-Po people for their intellect, ability and cognitive capabilities. However, let us look at what Hi-Po people USUALLY do not possess. These are the blind spots you will need to develop.
- They often do not understand why other people find problems difficult to solve, and take so much time to arrive at the answer.
- They often find it hard to explain ideas and solutions to others, because others cannot easily follow the reasoning.
- Others expect a lot from Hi-Po people so there is a pressure to perform; this includes family members as well as senior people at work.
- Knowing that everyone expects great things from them, there can be a hidden lack of confidence.
- Hi-Po people have not spent time learning to build relationships with people who (they think) are not as quick or intelligent; there has been no need to, or value in it.
- The language used by Hi-Po people is often more elaborate, which makes them harder from others to understand, or know how to talk to.
- Career promotions that do not move at the pace expected lead to frustration.
Conclusions? Hi-Po people are very quick at assimilating task and functional skills, and are well equipped to do this. However, they can find it more challenging to develop relationships and effective interpersonal skills. They may have a lower starting point than others who have learnt to use interpersonal skills as a substitute for not being as quick or clever. As a graph, (artistic rather than scientific) the Hi-Po would look something like this:
The task for Talent Development Managers is to close ‘The Hi-Po Gap’ by lifting the lower line quickly. Here are some ideas to maximize the value of Hi-Po people to the business. These activities offer a way of assimilating personal skills quickly. Give your Hi-Po people a chance:
- Teaching and instructing others, which will develop communication skills.
- Coaching others can develop patience and learn not to always give the answers
- Team leadership duties means learning to handle a range of interpersonal, domestic and performance issues sensitively
- Realign expectations on what they will and will not be doing in the day-to-day job
- Do not over-promise promotions or career steps
- Give a buddy at a subordinate level to provide advice on what life and work is like for others in the organization.
- Give a mentor at a senior level to help with relationship building skills
Make sure your Hi-Po people reach their high potential and you get the benefit, not a competitor!
Next article: Talented or simply good?
Nigel Murphy supports the whole learning experience of MCE delegates across MCE’s wide range of solutions. He has a background in management in manufacturing, education and training. For the past 10 years he has worked on leadership programmes across the globe. He is interested in the mentoring of new managers and leaders, and leading remote teams of people in today’s globally