Summary: The High Potential’s Advantage By Jay A. Conger and Allan H. Church
Summary: The High Potential’s Advantage By Jay A. Conger and Allan H. Church

Summary: The High Potential’s Advantage By Jay A. Conger and Allan H. Church

Situation Sensing How to Build Trust with Your Bosses

Recognize that every boss you’ll have is different.

Learn all you can about delivering for your bosses both in terms of their agendas and the work habits they value.

Focus your energies on the tasks that will help propel your boss’s success.

Tackle every assignment with the perspective that you’re already at the level of your boss or boss’s boss.

Wherever you see an opportunity, demonstrate initiative beyond expectations to help solve an emerging organizational challenge.

Differentiate yourself by doing the things your boss doesn’t like to do. Be careful of becoming too much of a yes-man or -woman, though, and don’t focus single-mindedly on achieving your goals at the expense of the organization and your relationships.

Remember your responsibility is to adapt to the bosses; never assume it is their responsibility to adapt to you.


Talent Accelerating How Focusing on Your Team’s Development Multiplies Your Potential

Your team will determine whether you are able to deliver the results you need to achieve high-potential status.

All high-potential leaders have important gaps in expertise, knowledge, and skills, just as you do. Be aware of both what you are really good at (e.g., skills, knowledge, and capabilities) and what you are not. Build your team to complement your gaps.

Continually engage your people through a concerted focus on their development.

Convey in deeds that you are committed to development—your team’s and your own.

When it comes to assessing the talent of your individual team members, don’t focus just on their current performance but their potential.

Address your C players head-on and with a sense of urgency.


Career Piloting How to Succeed at the Difficult Assignments Ahead

Expect to have an unpredictable career path with a tremendous amount of variety.

Cultivate a tolerance for ambiguity—a fundamental comfort with opportunities beyond your control and often far outside your experience and knowledge.

As you enter the stream of high-potential talent, an intensifying spotlight will be on you. Upper management is now paying an inordinate amount of attention to your performance and particularly to the ways in which you achieve performance.

Because of their complexity and visibility to senior leaders, your high-potential assignments are far more likely to reveal your gaps, shortcomings, and bad habits. You have to be highly responsive to developmental feedback and act upon it quickly and successfully.

Remember that what worked so well in your last assignment—with regard to process, knowledge, and style—might not work so well in upcoming assignments. You have to ask yourself: What do I really need to learn and from whom? How will my prior experience and functional background potentially blindside me in this assignment? Where might I fail to pay enough attention because I don’t have sufficient experience?

While almost every assignment is designed to help you grow, you may be offered one or two that you should decline. Be thoughtful about how you turn down these opportunities.


Complexity Translating How to Turn Data into Compelling Insights

You have to become a master translator of the complex world around your organization for your stakeholders.

By skillfully gleaning insights from information of all kinds, you must be able to cull and then call out the key ideas and priorities, and the best decision to make.

To master complexity translating, you need to develop your skills in scanning for the right data, looking for patterns while integrating your insights into a coherent mental map, and then synthesizing the critical information into a powerful narrative.

It is critical to read your audiences well, before you even enter the room where a decision is to be made. Understand their frames of reference, and the data and arguments that will resonate with them. Anticipate the questions that could “kill” your request.

High potentials understand that even the narratives you construct must be adapted to the worldviews of the different constituents they are influencing.


Catalytic Learning How to Turn Insights into Performance

The greater the learning versatility you can demonstrate in adjusting behavior and mindsets to new situations, the more successful you will be in your career and in life. High potentials learn from many different kinds of events or experiences and apply those insights to future situations. They have the ability to quickly synthesize and use information and insights in new ways and to shift their behaviors to the right approach demanded by each circumstance.

Practice enhancing your overall self-awareness by reflecting on the situation around you and what you have just learned. Find colleagues who can be your reflection partners.

Build networks of relationships to broaden your expertise, learn new skills, and find purpose in your work. Share best practices and contacts from other industries. Cultivate links to senior leaders who can provide mentoring, political support, resources, and help coordinate projects.

Given the work demands on your time, focus on only one or, at most, two skills to develop at a time. When you achieve a degree of mastery, begin to work on the next.

Build in dedicated time on specific days, times, and locations for your deliberate practice. Otherwise, meetings, emails, and day-to-day demands will waylay your efforts.

Solicit guidance from colleagues who have a keen sense of the assignment dynamics you face ahead. Ask them to recommend where you should make development investments and to provide you with ongoing feedback.


Continuing Your High-Potential Journey

You consistently underperform in the various responsibilities of your role or you fail to deliver on one or more critical performance goals that were expected of you. If you miss key objectives more than once, you will no longer be a high potential.

You deliver on all your objectives, but your results don’t have the broad impact on the organization that they should have had (or that your boss and other senior executives expected you to have).

You receive consistent feedback from your direct reports and/or peers that they don’t enjoy working with you. They make it known to superiors that you are a poor, difficult, absent, or arrogant manager or colleague. The opposite outcome of the talent accelerating X factor.

You create the impression that you are too driven, ambitious, aggressive, and self-serving in your career aspirations. Someone who does this is labeled as “chasing the level”—seeking promotions rather than furthering the business.

You consistently clash with your boss about work styles or you simply neglect to effectively manage upward, failing to demonstrate the situation sensing X factor in action.

You lack executive presence, however that is defined in your organization (e.g., disorganized, underdressed for meetings, poor attention to body language, lack of ability to speak clearly and with authority).

You fail to present and communicate your ideas well in meetings, our X factor of complexity translating.

Your colleagues perceive that your insights and ideas lack relevance. In short, others think you are not connecting the dots in ways that matter.

You constantly arrive late to meetings, miss deadlines, or otherwise prove to be unreliable. People need to be able to count on you to deliver, especially your boss.

You lose emotional control, often get openly frustrated, and show your negative emotions too frequently. People know when you are upset and how to push your buttons.

You forget to pay attention to the politics and culture of the organization and the way people are expected to communicate upward to senior leaders (situation sensing).

You fail to treat others with respect and listen well. We commonly see this, particularly among with people strong egos and/or low emotional intelligence.

You show poor judgment when given sensitive or confidential information (e.g., by sharing it with the wrong people at the wrong times). Remember the old adage, “three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

You fail to learn the skills and knowledge that are imperatives demanded by the roles into which you could be promoted—our X factor of catalytic learning.