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A 1948 film ‘Easter Parade’ had the underlying premise that a talented manager could work with anyone and make them a star. I think too often in organisations managers are not willing to invest their time and effort into bringing out the best in individuals. Everyone has star quality. Everyone has potential. People need to have confidence in themselves and managers and organisations who back them.
Your use of physics as an illustration provides a generous, creative framework for career discussions and discovery. Now I’m curious. What impact do you think team members comfortable in their current positions -no self-awareness or perceived need for momentum – have on team performance?
Hi Michelle–thanks for the question. Let’s say someone is in their dream job. Getting to use their strengths a lot, living their aspiration, and performing at a high level. Then we’d say, using our term, that they have high momentum. Which is to say that momentum isn’t about movement in an organization, but rather impact on the world–two different things. And then if we imagine someone who’s stuck in a rut, and ask them about strengths and aspirations and performance, we might find a way to increase their momentum. And that may or may not involve a change in role. I think often we confuse movement in an organization with growth. Often they overlap, but not always!
Hello, Thanks for sharing this, Ashley and Marcus!
I agree with Michelle that it provides a generous and creative framework for development and progression. I am rumbling with whether this is useful for succession ‘planning’ too? E.g. if an organisation knows that their OPS Director and CEO are planning to retire within, say, 2 years, and therefore want to start looking at whether there are likely successors within the organisation. Any thoughts, experiences, ideas?
Question: I am wondering what your opinion is of psychological profile assessments that are utilized in the hiring process. I recently took the Korn Ferry 4D assessment and have taken other similar ones in the past. They all claim to be rooted in a fair amount of research and large data sets and be able to predict potential. I have always found those types of profile assessments interesting and seemingly accurate but also a but vague and at times similar to reading your horoscope. What is your opinion in using these types of tools in the initial hiring process as opposed to team development with existing employees?
Definitely agree that the ability to predict another person’s potential is about as accurate as flipping a coin. However, if you narrow the purpose of a program down to identifying people who are likely to be executive level leaders, then there are indicators of who is high potential for those roles. For example, if the company has a global footprint and it follows that executives must have global experience, an individual who states they will neither travel nor relocate will have lower potential to fill one of those leadership roles. Similarly, an individual who states they intend to leave the organization has lower potential than one who intends to stay. I could go on identifying factors, from the perspective of the individual being considered. While still not perfect in predicting future leadership success factors like these are more reliable than the more traditional methods of one person evaluating another.
This Lie resonates. I have observed the whole talent pool in action. Where those selected are invested in and managed to “success” even when they really have no additional “talent”. And of course I have also seen others thrive through this process. One thought strikes me, is if you are being managed to succeed and the people i.e. the execs, who selected youare being measured in part on your success then aren’t you creating a virtual circle of perceived success. And if a “no-po” says otherwise then they are viewed as simple wrong. i.e. they are not qualified or allowed to have a valid opinion that does not match yours.
This resonates with me too Jane. Our organisation has just started using the 9 box grid – which seems a backward step to me. There is almost a halo affect around people considered hi-po and horns around lo-po. I am a firm believer that if we believe in people, work with their strengths, and give them the opportunity and the backing to develop – everyone becomes a hi-po
Diana–or a hi-mo 🙂
This question has been swimming in my head for years: “What is it that exists in a person that makes us see that they will be able to take on a new, more important role and be successful in that new role?” I have joined projects where we attempted to assess how fast and flexible this group of people -whom their bosses say have high potential- are in adapting to uncertainties and we looked for people who know what to do even when they seem to not know what to do. We asked people who worked with them to tell us what they see. We asked them to assess themselves. I think we just ended up making a lot of people answer a lot of questions while having no clear idea why they did it. Only now I am asking questions about our measurement tools / approaches. Hope it’s not too late to put the ‘talent’ in talent management!
Faz–Amen to that.
Faz, I love your observations. It really makes one “question the question” and consider what it takes identify in what environment an individual may thrive or how to get them on the right seat in the bus.
This lie I can better relate to, because you say independent of and you also mention we cannot measure it. I think that potential is (like some of the other lies) very relative to the leader who is assigning the potential label and to the circumstances a person will have to learn and grow. Everybody has potential as human beings!, it is the people and “system” around them that maximize or caps it, in that specific circumstance (put them with a different leader of company and they will shine). The other issue with potential is when you relate it to the person’s ambition to grow in the company, because some will continue learning but want to stay in the same place.
I wholeheartedly agree Myrna. It ties into a growth mindset. I feel there are executives/business leaders sitting around in a room with a closed door commenting that person X has no potential. It is the closed-mindedness of those leaders that write people off, rather than enabling and supporting everyone to strive.
This makes me wonder how much “hi po” or “no po” are internalized by employees. If an ee is constantly told s/he is “hi po”, does s/he carry around the expectation that s/he will always succeed and thus have more confidence, likely then leading to more success? Conversely those labeled “no po” don’t have that same expectation of themselves and could be holding back or not as successful because they don’t have the believe that they will succeed?
Beth–we answered this in the live Q&A last week. If you weren’t able to catch that, the replay link will be up soon on the main page of this site. Great to hear from you as ever!
Eye opening! I work at ASU and our Charter states that we will measure our success by the students we include, not exclude and that while college may not be for all people, learning should be a fundamental responsibility for all. How much more do we need to then apply this to our own development of the people that help run this great institution!
It seems as though potential is more a function of the team leader than it is the individual members of the team. Meaning that people who “Show potential” are just in the right environment and have the right kind of encouragement. As opposed to people who don’t show potential who are suppressed or put in environments where they can’t fully express their abilities. That’s why some some teams are really strong, because the team leader creates the environment where everyone can live up to their “Potential.”
Rather than recognizing potential in an employee, I think Managers are seeing Skill versus Will.
As we move through the lies it is evident that many of the Lies are weaved together and this lie is directly tied to Lie 6. Thank you Marcus and Ashley for discussing this “Hidden Human Resources practice” and bringing light to another flaw in the word of work. Potential to do what… In the Industrial workforce, potential could be explained by the “Maximum number of Widgets” you could make in an hour, a day or a week. This is no longer the case in the Knowledge Based workforce. What are the Widgets for a Knowledge Worker? Can they even be measured? This notion of potential is so limiting. There is no scale or yard stick to measure potential of one person to another person in the world of work. Just my two cents.
I love this so much. Over the course of these first 7 lies and truths, you have clearly articulated what has been rumbling in my thoughts for the past few years. I believe labeling (officially or unofficially) individuals is inherently an inequitable practice. We all do it in some way and I think it becomes more pernicious when it is institutionalized. Doing so denies some individuals the fair opportunity to contribute in the best way they can. Doesn’t this all boil down to taking the time to build relationships with those around us? Doing so creates a space where people can put their best selves forward. There is much to ponder here and there is no checklist of things to complete to ensure organizations are transformed. It’s messy and complex and uncomfortable. Most of all, I believe it is necessary. Thank you for sharing your work with us.
Mary–thanks so much for the comment. Messy, complex, and necessary. I couldn’t agree more!
Fredrick Winslow Taylor has much to answer for, with his reductionist thinking we have formularized human behaviour and removed judgement to a list of metrics which are not only unreliable but fundamentally wrong! Creating efficiency cannot be applied to humans as it can be applied to machines but this mechanistic approach to organisational management has destroyed creativity, communication and understanding in fewer than100 years of humans civilisation.
What’s really harmful about this is that the “highpo-ness” is judged subjectively.