I dub you ‘high potential’!


I dub you ‘high potential’! 

I have always had an issue with the dubbing process in many organisations – bestowing on someone the title of ‘high potential’. My concern has always been that it is typically a very subjective process – if your manager is not a supporter, your chances are dim.  

Those that have argued against me, tell me that the subjectivity is reduced significantly by calibration meetings – where leaders get to express view around those not in their direct line of report. The problem with this approach is: 

  • The decision whether to exercise your political capital – an individual leader will pick his/ her battles.  
  • The ‘groupthink’ effect – where the dominant voice and the need for group justification becomes strong.  

A growth mindset means everyone is talented:

I have been a big proponent of Carol Dweck’s work on ‘Growth mindset’ where we assume everyone is talented – and provide everyone with the resources and the training – and then see who rises to the top. To me, success is then dependent on grit and determination – not whether you are bestowed with the special blessing of being ‘high potential’ – and then provided with special benefits, exposure and training, not available to the masses.  

Organizations that espouse a growth mindset support the idea that everyone within the organization has the potential to learn, grow, and improve, not merely just those select few, or those deemed as “high potential” or targeted “superstars”.

In growth-mindset organizations, where talent is something that you cultivate, employees  are more likely to be concerned with gaining skills and knowledge. This focus on getting better; rather than being good (i.e., focusing more on the ability to learn, grow, and improve instead of on whether or not they are or aren’t good at something), leads them to be less interested in comparing themselves to others, and more interested in comparing their performance today to their own past performance, to gauge how quickly and effectively they are improving over time. 

Growth mindset organizations value progress over perfection:

In fixed-mindset organizations, people are quite understandably more concerned with proving their ability through their performance. Their focus when pursuing any goal is to be good (i.e., to show, prove, and convince others that they are competent and/or talented at something), and they are particularly concerned with  how they perform relative to others….focused on getting better, rather than being  good...(Neuroleadership Journal) 

Organisations don’t have the bench strength!  

Currently, only 14% of organisations feel they have a strong bench strength and only 43% of roles can be filled rapidly internally (DDI/ The Conference Board and EY, Global Leadership Forecast 2018).  

The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 included a number of startling statistics which align with the sentiment that the traditional ‘high performer’ dubbing talent processes DOESN’T WORK:  

  • Despite 65% of organisations having high potential programs, 68% rated them as less than highly effective.  
  • On average, companies spend $4000 and 39 hours per high potential leader, per year for development and activities (for an organization of 1000 high potentials, this translates to an investment of more than $4 million and 4,800 person days.) 
  • If the average success rate is 61% – it translates to a wasted expense (for the 39% not successful) of about $1.6 million and 1,900 person days.  

Organisations don’t take a deep enough view of ‘talent’:

According to the Global Leadership Forecast 201846% of organisations limit their high potential focus to the senior-most levels of organisations.  

They found that organisations that opt to extend their development of high potentials below senior levels are 4.2 times more likely to outperform those that don’t.  

 Companies that take a full pipeline view of potential also have higher quality senior leadership and more women at every level, not just high potentials.  

 Inclusive talent management is what gets results!

According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018the following are the top 10 practices for boosting high potential success: 


Deloitte conducted cutting-edge research into the highest performing talent management approaches. Among more than 128 different practices studied, the talent practices which predict the highest performing companies are all focused on building an Inclusive Talent System.   

The analysis found 31 distinct talent practices which are highly correlated with strong business performance. These were grouped into 9 categories and ranked based on impact. 

Deloitte also used the data to group companies into four levels of maturity, and labelled the four levels based on the key practices which emerge at each level:


It’s striking that D&I rated the highest impact of all. This clearly illustrates that in today’s working world, your ability to attract and engage people of all ages, cultures, backgrounds, and types is paramount to your business success. 

To understand the levels of the maturity model and what you would expect to see, each level is explained in more detail in the graphic below: 



Talent, culture and employee engagement are intrinsically linked to diversity and inclusion. A smart organisation is going to look at ways to combine and integrate these critical people issues – with clear measurement of output and progress! 

If this focus on inclusion more broadly in your talent management process sounds like something you’d like to hear more about, get in touch today!

  1. Submit an online form here!
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