Discover The Insightful Leader Within

Four Requirements to be Considered a High Potential


Are you a high potential employee?

Most companies like to keep their succession planning results a tightly held secret. This unfortunately results in most employees not knowing if they are considered a candidate for future promotion. Sometimes the individual gets a hint: they are sent to an advanced training course or brought into an important task force. But sometimes there is no hint. On rare occasion the person is told the leadership team believes they have the ability to be successful at the next leadership levels but the reasons for the selection may still seem vague.

So how will you know if you are considered a high potential and worthy of future leadership promotion?  There are four expectations of high potential employees that I have seen be constants in the selection of promotional candidates.  Challenge yourself to see if these describe you:

1) You Have High Standards

High potentials are not content with average performance.  They strive to be the best.  This is tempered by a realistic grounding that perfection is not always possible.  Therefore they don’t put unrealistic expectations on themselves or others. Instead of beating themselves up for mistakes, they look at errors as opportunities to analyze what went wrong and improve.

  • Do you hold yourself and others to high standards of productivity, quality and reasonable costs?
  • Do you make your expectations of others clear so they are not guessing on what constitutes outstanding performance?
  • Do you view mistakes as learning opportunities for yourself and others?
  • Do you give yourself the same flexibility with expectations that you give to those reporting to you?

2) You Don’t Overlook Relationships

High potentials don’t let getting the job completed overshadow having solid business relationships.  They recognize that to create lasting influence they need to have supporters up, across and down the organization. They recognize that to create lasting influence they need to have supporters up, across and down the organization.  They understand this means not spending all their lunches connected to their computer, focused on their own work.  They find the time to get to know others. They set up routine meetings with key stakeholders to learn how these individuals measure the high potential’s program success and get feedback on their progress to these measures.  They have routine one-on-ones with their manager to stay focused on the higher level strategies. They spend a few lunches with their peers to understand their peers perspectives and concerns.  They understand how their work impacts others.

  • Do you find time to meet with your peers to really understand how your work impacts their goals and processes?
  • Are you setting up quarterly meetings with each key stakeholder to ensure you are meeting and hopefully exceeding expectations?
  • Do you take responsibility for ensuring one-on-ones with your manager happen routinely?
  • Do you provide agendas for your meetings with your manager and your stakeholders so they know these will be worth their time?

3) You’re Guided by What’s Best for the Organization

High potentials are not focused on their own needs.  They have a strong enough ego to want to lead others, but they don’t let their ego overtake their motives. They are first and foremost focused on what is best for the organization as a whole. Their actions are guided by providing a service or product they believe in to their customers. At their core, they believe in the greater purpose of the company. They aren’t there just for the paycheck or next promotion.

  • Are you committed to the organization’s purpose?
  • Does the organization’s purpose align to your personal values?

4) You’re a Continuous Learner

High potentials are natural continuous learners. They know their leadership path is a journey, not a destination. They are willing to take on added responsibility, take a lateral position to learn more about the company or take on a special project to gain appreciation for other organizational views.  They take time to keep learning outside of work by reading books, blogs or attending professional meetings.

  • Are you willing to put additional effort into learning something new?
  • Do you keep up in your field through reading, training, attending conferences or professional meetings?
  • Are you excited enough about your profession to get excited when speaking to others about what you do?

Be completely honest with yourself in answering these questions. I’ve fallen down on each of them at some point. It’s easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent that we are not taking time for our own strategic success.  Use this as a guide on what you need to do for your own long-term success and position yourself to not only be a high potential but also be happier in your leadership.