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High Performer vs High Potential – what’s the difference (and why does it matter?)

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Identifying future leaders from within the existing ranks of the organisation can help to give your business a competitive advantage in the key areas of succession planning and organisational development. To maximise your talent pool’s potential you not only to identify the shining lights of the high performers, but also recognise the diamonds in the rough – those that have high potential.

Identifying high performers is easy – they are the ones that consistently overachieve and can be relied upon to deliver on a daily basis. They seem destined to reach greater heights, but what about the others? The people with the aptitude and essential leadership skills that your business is crying out for but aren’t necessarily standing out from the crowd. How do you find those people before they get bored and move on?

The first step is to recognise that high performers aren’t necessarily high potentials, and, in some cases, high potentials are not necessarily performing at high levels.

High performing individuals typically display some common traits. They consistently exceed expectations, readily embrace challenges, are proud of their professional achievements and are generally excellent in their job performance. It’s easy to mark them as having high potential, however, some high performers aren’t suited to, or simply don’t want further advancement. They may be best suited to their current role. Being a great salesperson does not necessarily translate into being a great sales manager, for example. High performing employees, therefore, fall into two broad categories – high performers with high potential and high performers with low potential. Both groups are invaluable but need to be treated slightly differently.

High potential, high performance employees need to be identified and developed for future roles where they can contribute even more to the organisation. High performing employees with low potential should not be ignored, they need to be constantly challenged and encouraged. Rather than wasting time and energy attempting to prepare them for roles they don’t particularly want or are suited for, a better strategy would be to give them greater autonomy and authority within their current role while consistently challenging them with assignments and tasks that keep them mentally engaged.

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While some of your high performers will certainly have the potential to progress into more senior roles, relying on them as your only source of future talent identification is shortsighted.

Within your ranks there will be high potential employees, who may in many respects be much more suited to future advancement then your current high performers. Spotting them though is a much more difficult proposition.

High potentials have innate leadership qualities that may not be readily apparent in their day to day activities.

These qualities may include acceptance of responsibility for others, stress management, business sense and adaptability.

There may be other qualities that match the organisation’s set of values that would make a person fit the high potential talent criteria.

Once identified, it’s important to nurture high potential talent that hasn’t quite hit the performance heights that your high performers have. Be clear that they have been identified as having high potential and work with them to structure a development plan that can harness their potential. In this regard it may pay to have a current high performer act as their mentor.

The difficulty lies not only in identifying what potential talent looks like but being able to clearly enunciate what qualities you value when seeking to identify potential leaders and high performers. It is vital to equip line managers with the skills needed to identify potential high performers and to place a heavy emphasis on talent recognition.

Get in touch with ChandlerWoods today and let’s discover how we can fast-track your organisation’s talent identification and find your high-performing and high-potential team members.


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