How do I know you are a high potential? My 5 Qualifiers

As I watched them present, I realized that in the 16 hours since I last saw them – they got better.  It made me smile.

Sunday I had the opportunity to join a group of coaches to help 21 students looking for jobs in Michigan prepare to address 500+ business leaders and tell their story in 3 minutes.  The workshop included them presenting their story 4-6 times and having their peers and their coach give them feedback on what they did well and what is one thing they could do to improve next time.  Not surprisingly, they got better.  But what really made me smile is that after we sent them off (paired up with another student to do one on one coaching with each other), they returned and they demonstrated a huge leap in performance from the previous day.  In my 10 plus years being around high potentials through leadership development programs, it reminded me that is what high potentials do.

Are you a high potential?  Here are five things that tell me you qualify:

  1. You learn when I am not looking: If you read some of the research by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger they call this Learning Agility.  It is measurable and backed by research.  When I am helping leaders teams think about potential and what it looks like I use the book The Leadership Machine.  If you are charged with developing leaders in your organization, this should be in your library because it is backed with research and it will help you focus on the right things in your efforts to find and develop leaders.
  2. I experience your infectious energy: High potentials might not be the smartest person in the room, but they are never accused of being disengaged or along for the ride.  They see problems as opportunities, and that rubs off on the people around them.
  3. You listen: In any relationship a key part of listening is receiving feedback.  I know people hear something because instantly it is reflected in their performance and they say thank you in such a sincere manner that you know they appreciated it and are going to strongly consider it.  Listening is also apparent from the questions that people ask.  When you ask questions that help clarify or lead the speaker to an area they need to address next or completely missed, it means you are listening.
  4. I see you teaching: I watched strangers give each other great feedback, both on the positive and the negative (ie. improvement) aspects of their performance.  It was great, and it was extremely accurate.  I also found myself learning.  They showed me how about effective networking and gave me some tips about how colleges are preparing students today.
  5. I see results: In the end, high potentials figure out the learning curve and get to a result.  Most of the time it is quicker than what is expected, and often time the answer redefines what would be considered a great outcome.  The improvement and final deliverable of the performance is the special sauce.

One thing I did not include is “Everyone likes you.”  I left that out because high potentials have to learn to manage relationships effectively with peers and subordinates, but often times that lesson is part of the learning / development program.  It is critical that leaders like and respect you, so the ability to manage up and do the work is critical from the beginning.  Ultimately, high potentials should not move up without learning the craft of building respect at all levels and demonstrating the ability to build healthy relationships and teams – but that is for another blog.

If you want to see some of these students speak, here is a link.

Do you have anything to add to my list based on your experience?