In two previous articles we examined the importance of succession planning and how many organisations have identified that the single biggest risk to their future business is people – or more precisely the lack of people with the right skills and experience.

But how do you develop someone who has been identified as having high potential?

It is certainly not appropriate in today’s organisational world to simply identify ‘high flyers’ and leave them to it.  Business and organisations have to continually change and develop and their high potentials will need to change, develop and ‘move with the times’ as well.

So what should your organisation do?  Here’s a guide to developing your high potentials.

  1. Make the development of your high potentials an issue for the Board.  The Board should be able to clearly articulate the strategy of the business and where it is going, and therefore define the types of skills, behaviours and experiences its leaders will need in the future.
  2. Be clear with your high potentials what it is they need to learn.  Don’t just assume that they should work on their weaknesses.  Ask what is it that will add the greatest value to their performance and ultimately the organisation’s performance, and focus on this.
  3. Provide ‘on the job’ opportunities for your talent to flourish.  What new business improvement projects need to be delivered?  What opportunities are there for high potentials to undertake new roles or gain international experience? Interestingly people will raise their performance to what is being requested of them.  Take them outside of their comfort zone to find out what they are ‘really made of’.
  4. Don’t assume that a ‘management training course’ is the answer to all their development needs.  Provide a range of options to support them. For example coaching is a powerful way to enable high potentials to develop quickly.  This can either be done using an external coach or by peer coaching.  The advantage of the latter is that it is an excellent way for high potentials to further improve their skills such as listening, questioning, observing, and facilitating.
  5. Provide networks both internally and externally.  High potentials can benefit from shadowing leaders in their own or other organisations and learning from them how they use their skills and behaviours to inspire their staff.
  6. High potentials must be ‘self starters’.   However you won’t get that from conventional management training.   Therefore the programme should be about an individual’s ‘development’, and therefore provide opportunities for self direction and self learning.

Ultimately the long term success of your business resides with your high potentials.  Surely, the development of these people is far too an important business issue to be left just to the training department?