Newsletter 579 – Finding and Growing Talented People

Please consider this tough question: How do you chose an employee, company leader, team member, the best students for a class or academic program, or even a new pastor? Assume you want individuals who have talent and a high likelihood that they will thrive and succeed in their new roles.

Potential 1 To find talented people, most often we look at recommendation letters, past performance, intelligence, experience, test scores, personality traits and demonstrations of competence. All of these have relevance, according to a thought provoking, research based article in Harvard Business Review (June 2014). But no longer is past behavior the best predictor of future behavior. “In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment,” like the cultures where we now live, it’s not enough to have the right experiences, resumés, credentials and skills. More important is having the potential to adapt and learn new skills and competencies.

High potential is not the same as high ability to perform. HBR summarized data from the careers of  “thousands of executives” and identified five indicators of high potential. Measuring these is difficult but possible, according to two decades of research. High potential people possess:

  • Motivation characterized by strong commitment to the pursuit of unselfish goals. This is not a motivation to attain selfish goals. It is motivation that includes deep personal humility and ambition to do something big that will benefit many others, not just oneself.
  • Curiosity that involves “seeking out new experiences, knowledge, candid feedback, and an openness to learning and change.”
  • Insight, meaning the ability to gather and make sense of new information and possibilities.
  • Engagement with others that permits open communication, interpersonal connection and the ability to share a persuasive vision.
  • Determination to fight for difficult goals and to bounce back from adversity or missteps.

After high potential people are selected, they thrive and develop when they are treated well and given challenges that stimulate growth.

I wonder if we are using outdated criteria to select and grow high potential leaders. Please click on the comment button and leave your perspective.


  1. Successful performance in the past does not guarantee the same in the future. It cannot predict how that person will respond to increasing pressure (more work; less pay), the hyper-speed rate of change, and the capacity to become proficient at radically different, new technology.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s