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24th October 2014 - Views

What High Potential Profiles Can Reveal About Your Leadership Culture

High potential programmes bring value to the individual participants, by helping them reflect on their leadership strengths and areas for development. Such programmes impact all the teams and communities the participant works with, and have a positive impact on the efficiency of the participants in their current or future role.

These programmes are also a rare opportunity to consolidate data related to the high potential population of the company and offer “food for thought” to the organisation on its leadership culture.  Many high potential programmes use personality or behavioural questionnaires to assess how participants are likely to behave as leaders. One way to leverage these programmes on an enterprise-wide scale is to analyse the collective trait-based data gathered on the participants to gain insights into the character of the organisation and its talent development efforts.

For example, let’s assume that Company X has 300 high potentials and when this group completes a leadership assessment questionnaire, the highest aggregate score is on the Prudence scale.   Prudence measures the degree to which a person seems conscientious, rule abiding, and dependable. Such employees tend to be inflexible about rules, resistant to change, and poor at delegating. Frequently, high scores on Prudence  will be paired with low ratings on Inquisitive. So even though your high potentials have many other attributes, their strongest tendency is to play by defined rules.  Is this good for your company?  Is it an asset or a liability?  Why is this happening?  Is it because you recruit prudent people; or does working in your organization cause people to become prudent; or when you identify high potentials, do you rightly or wrongly focus on these two dimensions? Looking at such results can help spur conversations around the character of your workforce and the needs of your organisation.

Another example illustrates the value of such data in forecasting how leaders may act when under stress and challenged. Let’s assume that a majority of the participants in the high potential programme score high on the Dutiful scale.  A group of up-and-coming leaders that scores high on Dutiful will tend to do what their bosses expect and continually check with their managers for instructions.  When a high-dutiful organisation is under stress, there tends to be little thinking outside the box; people do not act with autonomy but, instead, turn to the boss to find out what to do next. Is this what is the most beneficial to the company?

Making aggregated data on top talent available to the organisation can highlight the strengths and weaknesses in everything from recruiting practices to high potential identification processes. This information, in turn, can lead to very valuable discussions about values, mission, and workplace culture. When a company uses all available data to step back and reflect, it becomes a true learning organisation.

Author: Jacques Quinio, EMEA Leadership Development Solutions Director & UKI Talent Management Principal Consultant