On Being A High Potential

Have you heard the news? Probably not, because only 31% of the companies in the US actually let you know that you’re high potential. And of those companies that do publicly covet their high potentials, most don’t really give you the details of what being a high potential means. Being named a high potential is good … but only great if there is a definition and a set of expectations that accompany that designation.

The fact that this matters deeply in the workplace shouldn’t even be a debate at this point. Not being transparent about where people stand in your organization is making matters worse. If you’re not telling them what their future growth potential is in the organization, you leave them to fill in the blanks. And if you leave that up to them, they will most likely think one of two extremes: “I’m a superstar”, or “I’m not a part of the organization’s future plan”. And trust me, they are watching and listening to everything you do as their leader. Walking the talk has never been more of an imperative for leaders in today’s workplace and workforce.

If Gen X employees sense that they’re not one of the superstars, or if they somehow see other people being treated differently, they will certainly want to know why. Sure, you can choose not to tell them. But be prepared for the sentiment of “you don’t want to tell me, that’s cool, I’m going to start looking elsewhere” to work through your team or organization. And, those few intrepid souls who choose not to be stuck in the middle will take control of their career in view of others who just needed visual motivation to do just the same. And with that, the exodus has begun.

So explain to me the risk reward here. You can keep it a secret and your people will talk about it. That’s when the rumor mill swirls. Two cultures develop; the one you think you have and the one that your people will develop on their own.

Alternatively, you can open the doors, be transparent about your process and actually tell your people how the process works. Sure, some may not be happy with what they hear, but at least it’s the truth. And isn’t that what we should be telling people? Well, we all know the answer to that question.

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