As an HR leader, as much as you want to see your employees equally, it is inevitable that you find some individuals are more talented than others. High-potential employees tend to outperform their peers, making them easily stand out in the eyes of managers. They showcase actions that reflect the business’ culture and values in an exceptional manner while accomplishing high levels of performance.
Top performers show a significant potential to thrive and succeed throughout their careers in an organization faster and more efficiently than their fellow workers. To better understand this, here are some X-factors high-potential employees usually possess.
X-Factor #1: A drive to excel
High-potential people are so determined to achieve the best that simply ‘being good’ is not enough. They are more than eager to go beyond and understand that in order to advance, they may have to make personal compromises. However, this does not imply that they are not true to their ideals; rather, their ambition may push them to make some tough choices.
X-Factor #2: A catalytic learning capability
High-potential individuals are seen as tireless learners. But unlike many people who learn consistently while lacking an action or results orientation, people with high potential have what is known as a “catalytic learning capability.” This is where they have the ability to discover new ideas, the aptitude to internalize them, and the common sense to apply that new information in effective ways for their associates.
X-Factor #3: An enterprising spirit
High potentials are always searching for productive ways to blaze new paths. They are explorers and, as such, take on the challenges of leaving their career comfort zones periodically in order to advance. It might mean a risky move—a tricky international assignment, for instance, or a cross-unit shift that demands an entirely new set of skills. Given high potentials’ drive to succeed, you might think they’d be reluctant to take such a chance. But most seem to find that the advantages—the excitement and opportunity—outweigh the risks.
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X-Factor #4: Dynamic sensors
Being driven to excel and having an enterprising spirit, combined with the urge to find new approaches, could actually become a recipe for career disaster. High potentials can get derailed for a number of reasons. They may, for instance, be tempted to impulsively accept what seems like a hot opportunity, only to find that it is a break (not a stretch) assignment or that there is no long-term career payoff.
Beyond judgment, high potentials possess “dynamic sensors,” which enable them to skirt these risks, even if just barely. They have a feel for timing, the ability to quickly read situations, and a nose for opportunity. Their enterprising spirit might otherwise lead them to make foolish decisions, but these sensors help them decide, for example, when to pursue something and when to pull back. In other words, people with high potential have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Although an employee may have the three elements above, high-potential status remains elusive. This can be infuriating because the real differentiators; X-factors are somewhat intangible and usually do not show up on lists of leadership competencies or on performance review forms. While those traits are the X-factors, there are actually ways to practice self quality; enough to increase one’s personal value and become high-potential too. Here are some things you need to put into mind and practice:
1 . Deliver strong and credible result
Making your numbers is important, but it is not enough to use it as the sole metric of success. Competence is the baseline quality for high performance. However, high-potential employees need to be proven by their credibility. This means you need to build trust and confidence among your colleagues and, thereby, influence a wide array of stakeholders. If you aspire to be one of the high-potential employees, this is your first step. If you think that one of your juniors is exhibiting this quality, then maybe this person can be your successor candidate!
2 . Master new types of expertise
Those who are aiming to be noticed as top performers need to broaden their expertise on what they are doing in their job function. In doing this, you can start by managing an employee or a small group, and then move on to larger teams and positions (for instance, at corporate headquarters) that require you to exercise influence despite having limited formal authority.
3 . Recognise that behavior counts
Although your performance gets you noticed and promoted early in your career, your behavior is what keeps you on the radar as a high potential. Outstanding skills never really diminish in importance, but they become a given as you are expected to excel in roles with broader reach. Prospective candidates for that coveted high-potential label must demonstrate a behavioral shift from “fit and affiliation” to “role model and teacher.”
Whether you are trying to uncover high-potential employees or become one yourself, it is worth noting that numbers are not everything. Behavior and constant positive traits shown consistently every day should also be taken into account. If you are really that good, you do not really have to prove yourself too hard; your work result and performance will speak for you.
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