How can a person who seems so qualified for a position fail miserably in it? How can someone who clearly lacks relevant skills and experience succeed? The answer is potential, the ability to adapt and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments.
For the past several decades, organizations have based their hiring decisions on competencies. But we have entered a new era of talent spotting. Geopolitics, business, industries, and jobs are changing so rapidly that it’s impossible to predict the capabilities employees and leaders will need even a few years out. The question now is not whether people have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.
Research points to five markers of potential: a strong motivation to excel in the pursuit of challenging goals combined with the humility to put the group ahead of individual needs; an insatiable curiosity to explore new ideas and avenues; keen insight into connections that others don’t see; a strong engagement with work and people; and the determination to overcome obstacles.
Once organizations have hired true high potentials—a challenge, given the increasing scarcity of senior talent—and identified the ones they already have, it’s crucial to focus on retaining them and on helping them live up to their potential by offering development opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones.
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