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Let’s Support Emerging Leaders Part 2: High Potentials

3 min read

Recap of Part I:

In a previous blog, we discussed working on development goals at the individual level – specifically, how you can help a high-performing, high-potential individual accelerate his or her career path while increasing their motivation and engagement. I also pointed out the benefits of collaborating with those “high potentials” on how to leverage their current strengths and allow them to stretch into new areas of development.

So now that you know why you should be paying attention to your high potentials, this week, we go a step further: How to take a more organization-wide approach to helping your high-performing individuals realize their leadership potential. And it’s simpler to implement than you may think.

I’m currently working with a Swiss-based international company on developing a full-fledged program for high-performing/high-potential individuals. Depending on your position in your organization, you might consider a similar program. Here’s the recipe we collaborated on creating:

  • SELECT: Take 15 individuals who have already demonstrated great competence and promise.
  • SCHEDULE: Have these individuals meet three times (2 /12 days per module) as a full cohort over the course of 6 months in concentrated learning modules.
  • SUPPORT: Provide them with faculty members able to help them upgrade their already superior skill set in communication, presence, and presentation.
  • STIMULATE: Simultaneously, provide these individuals with faculty able to offer them a broader perspective and new information on MBA-like topics about the world of business more generally and about the world in which their company operates.
  • STAGE: Divide them into three cross-functional project teams, each of which addresses an issue of strategic importance to their company – with an opportunity to present the results of their work to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors at the conclusion of the program. Offer each group institutional support through high-level executive “sponsors.”
  • STRETCH: Throughout the entire 6-month program, utilize group activities and one-on-one executive coaching to remind participants that the program is all about their “stretch” in the areas each has identified as important in his or her professional leadership development.
  • SIGNIFY: Involve the President/CEO in a meaningful way to let participants know that this program matters at the highest level.

There are certainly many other models for building on the strengths of high-performing, high-potential individuals, but this particular model goes deep and broad and has the added benefit of “learning by doing” with a very high-visibility opportunity included at the end of the program. From that standpoint, it’s a “win-win” all around.


You may not be able to just jump in. Or, you may already be further along than you thought. So here are some questions you might ask about instituting such a program, to set your own starting point:

  • How have we attempted to leverage the skills and talents of our high-performing and high-potential individuals so far?
  • Where have we experienced the greatest success?
  • Where have we fallen short of our desired outcomes?
  • What is the upside if we’re wildly successful in helping our emerging leaders “step up”? What is the cost if we don’t?
  • What are the pros and cons of identifying a small number of individuals (compared to the total population of our workforce) for this “special program” vs. beefing up our organizational-wide approach to leadership development for each and every employee?
  • What are some of the working assumptions we seem to hold as an organization about the place of development in our work culture? Do we need another look at those assumptions?
  • What can we learn from other companies who have succeeded in making step-changes in helping significant contributors make even more significant contributions to a company’s success?
  • What are the “great outcomes” we seek in focusing on leadership development and how might they best be achieved in today’s climate?

Recognizing and encouraging your best and brightest is one of the smartest moves you can make for your organization. As always, we’re eager to hear what you’re doing in this area. Share a success story or two with us, and let’s keep the conversation alive.




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