What do high-potential staff describe as their core challenges? And what areas of growth should they deal with as they climb the company ladder?
To raised perceive these challenges, we examined greater than 3,000 functions and sponsor statements for many who had been admitted to Harvard Enterprise Faculty’s flagship Excessive Potentials Management Program (HPLP) from 2003 by 2021. The admissions group requested candidates to determine their major management problem, their goals for attending this system, and their management model and strategy. Sponsors had been requested to determine the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, define their causes for the nomination, and articulate their targets for the applicant.
Our evaluation make clear the methods during which corporations assess the strengths and developmental wants of their executives on the quick observe, in addition to the methods during which these executives outline their core challenges. These insights can inform how managers can help their fast-track executives to achieve their full potential and the way organizations can drive the content material and supply of management growth applications.
Key Challenges Dealing with Excessive Potentials
Over almost 20 years, the excessive potentials in our program have persistently recognized 5 constant management challenges:
- Main groups
- Main change
- Management model
- Main at scale
- Driving enterprise outcomes
Greater than 30% of excessive potentials cited main groups as their core problem. “My greatest management problem is figuring out strategies for main group members,” one 2005 government famous. “Every group member’s background is completely different and every one is pushed in a different way. I need to then handle in a different way.”
Fifteen years later, excessive potentials famous the added complexity of main world groups remotely. “Having sufficient time to develop staff whereas advancing organizational targets is an actual problem particularly in a digital surroundings,” as one 2020 program participant stated.
For probably the most half, women and men cited comparable management challenges. Nevertheless, ladies had been extra possible than males to quote “management model” as a problem. As one girl famous: “I battle with my management model. I’m a really pushed, see the tip purpose, and infrequently suppose that everybody else round me ought to be capable of do the identical. When giving route or speaking to members on my group, it may well generally come throughout as being parental and directive. Though I’m extremely regarded and revered, I need to guarantee that my management model continues to be one among encouragement, motivation, and growth versus one which turns individuals off they usually subsequently don’t need to observe me and my imaginative and prescient.”
What Bought You Right here Will Not Get You There
Reworking from particular person contributor to group chief may be fairly troublesome. Over the previous 20 years, sponsors pointed to 2 key strengths — a capability to drive outcomes and useful or technical experience — because the central causes for figuring out and nominating staff as excessive potentials.
However to achieve the following degree, excessive potentials who’ve been rewarded for private accomplishments should be taught to recalibrate to a definition of success based mostly on the group’s collective efficiency. Counting on a previous observe report of success is not going to be sufficient as excessive potentials grapple with the size, scope, and complexity of extra senior normal administration roles.
Stepping as much as larger ranges of management requires six key expertise, in accordance with the managers in our information set:
- Strategic administration
- Emotional intelligence
- Main at scale
- Main groups
- Relationship administration
Because the sponsors in our information set thought-about the following step for his or her excessive potentials, they typically cited the necessity for top potentials to have a broader imaginative and prescient and a deeper sense of the strategic and aggressive panorama. They famous that the technical and useful expertise that enabled excessive potentials to excel could in actual fact impede their skill to see the “huge image.” As one supervisor wrote, “Calvin’s* weak spot is seeing the larger image of how what he manages impacts the complete group.”
Along with widening their apertures, excessive potentials additionally have to broaden their emotional intelligence and communication expertise. A consultant remark from a sponsor stated, “John has very robust arduous expertise. He’s robust in operations, gross sales, and main the event of latest know-how, however he should enhance his comfortable expertise. He has a giant blind spot by way of how he treats individuals.” Sponsors in our pattern had been extra more likely to determine strategic administration as a developmental alternative for girls and emotional intelligence as a developmental alternative for males.
How Organizations Can Develop Excessive Potentials
As organizations seek for methods to make sure that their excessive potentials fulfill their promise, they should be ready to equip them with the power to suppose and act extra strategically, to steer with larger conviction, and to domesticate and nurture relationships. In essence, organizations should create the scaffolding that enables excessive potentials to concurrently develop the macro expertise of technique and the micro expertise of interpersonal relationships.
Our evaluation pointed to a few clear priorities as organizations look to develop their excessive potentials:
1. Measure excessive potentials in opposition to particular competencies to assist broaden their management model.
Whereas most excessive potentials have expertise managing small groups, their subsequent profession step will possible contain main bigger groups, the place they received’t have the power to recurrently work together with each group member. As excessive potentials step as much as main at scale and scope, they need to create the situations that allow the group to function successfully with out their every day presence. This entails growing the operational platforms and incentives to strengthen constructive behaviors; supporting and cultivating a vibrant and wholesome tradition; and making a context that allows group members to develop, develop, and produce.
Managers can help this effort by monitoring excessive potentials’ progress in opposition to key management competencies, akin to group administration, relationship constructing, and communication. Particularly, a excessive potential’s skill to steer efficient groups, encourage and inspire others, and articulate a compelling imaginative and prescient are depending on their skill to efficiently talk. Whereas they might be efficient in small group conferences or one-on-one interactions, they need to additionally excel at speaking at scale and scope. This requires demonstrating confidence, conviction, and readability.
2. Assist excessive potentials improve their emotional intelligence.
As one strikes up of their profession, they need to typically depend on others to get the work achieved, and that requires belief, help, and steerage. In essence, it requires emotional intelligence, and two central tenants of emotional intelligence which can be essential for top potentials are self-awareness and empathy. Quite a few analysis research have recognized a hyperlink between self-aware leaders and climates which can be open, supportive, and productive. As such, applications and experiences that allow excessive potentials to extend their self-awareness are essential. This may be completed by suggestions, assessments, function performs and video recordings.
Together with self-awareness, empathy is core to the power to handle battle efficiently, to educate and mentor subordinates, and to inspire and encourage others. It’s additionally been proven to be important to cross-cultural groups. Regardless of its strengths, empathy can typically be a sufferer of 1’s hyper concentrate on outcomes and achievement. Paradoxically, whereas empathy tends to say no as one strikes up, that’s when it’s most wanted, particularly when one is main and never doing.
Whereas many consider that empathy is one thing that you simply both have or don’t, it may be realized, however it requires devoted behavioral change. By specializing in inquiry, growing energetic listening expertise, acknowledging completely different views, and demonstrating real concern, excessive potentials can hone their expertise in empathy.
3. Encourage a studying mindset.
Transferring from a core technical or particular useful space to a normal administration function requires excessive potentials to see how numerous features work together and the way their group’s strategic imperatives are influenced by and affect the prevailing contextual panorama. Leaders would profit from the event of contextual intelligence — the power to know the context and adapt one’s model and strategy. This requires shifting exterior one’s consolation zone (e.g., core technical space) and adapting a studying mindset.
Growing and cultivating a studying mindset requires an openness to new experiences, a way of curiosity and inquiry, and a willingness to query one’s assumptions, biases, and views. Organizations can help the event of those capabilities by fostering a tradition of psychological security and danger taking. They’ll additionally present excessive potentials with the chance to contribute to strategic initiatives exterior their core useful space, permit them to take part in situation planning and projection analyses, and supply them stretch alternatives in new markets or new product/service areas.
. . .
Whereas excessive potentials have been acknowledged for his or her results-orientation and work ethic, the following step of their management journey will rely on their skill to work with and thru others. That success will come from a heightened concentrate on emotional intelligence, communication, and relationship administration. To make sure the success of their excessive potentials, managers and organizations should present teaching, developmental help, and stretch alternatives, and excessive potentials should embrace them with an open and learning-oriented mindset.
*Names have been modified.
Letty Garcia and Karina Grazina of Harvard Enterprise Faculty’s Management Initiative supplied invaluable help within the assortment, coding, and evaluation of the information for this text.