In this episode, we’ll talk more about identifying your High-Potential leaders and why it’s incredibly important to not only be on the lookout for them, but to capitalize on your High-Potential leader’s strengths before someone else does.
I said in Part 1 of this message “If you do not identify and capitalize on their high potential, you may well miss out on a great opportunity for growth.” What I did not say was that, in addition to missing out on a great opportunity for growth, you may also miss out on the person themselves because High-Potential leaders have a tendency to move on from groups where they are not being utilized and their potential is not being capitalized upon and to move to groups where these things are happening. Also, keep in mind they may not physically leave your group, but they’ll find somewhere to utilize their strengths and potential while remaining part of your group, but your group will not get the benefit that it could have gotten.
Recognizing Those with High Potential
Now that we’ve talked about the capacity, character, and drive of the High-Potential leader and the importance of capitalizing on their potential before someone else does, let’s talk about actually recognizing those with high potential.
There was a story called Acres of Diamonds in which an African farmer sold his land to go prospecting for diamonds across the great African continent. After searching and searching, and finding nothing, in a fit of despondency he jumped into a river and drowned himself. Meanwhile, the man to whom the farmer had sold his land was crossing a stream on the property and saw a bright gleam of light from the bottom of the stream. The new owner later found that the bright light was produced by a gleaming gem lying just under the water’s surface. The previous owner had owned literally acres of the very diamonds for which he had unsuccessfully searched, and he would have found them had he taken the time to start looking right where he was.
However, this is exactly how it is in many groups. In their search for talent, they do not think to look right around them; in their own proverbial back yard. Many will believe talent has to look a certain way on the outside or have a certain level of accomplishments. None of this is the case. Just like the previous owner in Acres of Diamonds who didn’t know what diamonds look like in their rough state, so also is high potential missed because those looking for it are expecting to see the “diamond” in its finished state, when their diamond may still be in its rough state, they just don’t know what that looks like. So, before we start predefining what high potential looks like, let’s check to see if it is right under our noses and we just haven’t taken the time to identify it.
Revealing High Potential
Revealing high potential may sound a little odd, especially after having just spoken about recognizing high potential. The question could be asked, “If I recognize those with high potential, doesn’t that mean it’s already revealed? How else would I see it?”. That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked.
When I say “revealing high potential” it may be that you have to reveal to the High-Po leader that they are indeed a High-Po leader. “Well, wouldn’t they know it already?” Not necessarily. Sometimes, High-Po leaders are so busy “High-Po’ing” that they aren’t thinking about it. They’re just doing something with their high potential in an effort to make a positive impact, which is all they really want to do…make positive impact on as big of a scale as possible.
Of course, it is possible someone may know they are a High-Potential person because it has already been revealed to them by someone else. I’m just bringing out that some people with the highest potential may not have been told yet, and so we should not relegate the quieter and less-assuming ones into obscurity. While we objectively view every person as having potential, we should be ready to see and seize upon the strengths of those who possess high potential.
Capitalizing on High Potential
As easy as it sounds, it’s not always as easy to capitalize on a High-Potential leader’s potential. Why is this the case? Quickly recapping what I’ve covered, simply put, they may not meet our predefined expectations of what leadership “looks” like and if we can’t recognize them because of this, we certainly won’t capitalize on their potential.
Another reason for failing to capitalize is simply a lack of trust. It’s possible that someone simply cannot release their grip on the controls enough to let someone else come up and join them, even if that person is completely onboard and only wants to be a help. There’s just something about actually following through with capitalizing on high potential and giving that person a chance that scares some people. We may talk about it, but doing it is another story.
We don’t want to fall into the trap of only thinking of the present, but we want to think about the future. Let’s face it. No matter how long we live, none of us will be here forever and the longer we go without making meaningful decisions about the future of the group we’re leading, the more risk we run of putting our group into an unprepared position should anything catastrophic or something unexpected occur. None of us wants to think in worst case scenarios, but these are just the facts.
Training Yourself to BOLO for High-Po When you BOLO for High-Po, in addition to spotting talent that others may overlook, you are also training yourself. You are training yourself to see what’s unseen to others, to look deeper than others look, and even to see potential in your current leaders that you may have overlooked before. In short, this practice not only helps you spot future potential leaders, but it also makes you a better leader and when the leader gets better, everyone gets better!