How to Identify and Develop Your Hi-Po Employees

growing seedling

Quit worrying about finding the smartest people. Stop searching for the perfect employees – the ones who have it all figured out, can work unsupervised, and demand little time and attention.

Instead, look for the people with potential.

One of the main responsibilities we have as leaders is to find people with high potential (Hi-Po) and do something with them.

What do Hi-Po’s look like? Here are some common characteristics:

  • Hungry to learn
  • Eager for more responsibilities
  • Reliable and competent at their work
  • Committed to doing their best work
  • Have a positive attitude
  • Willing to try new things
  • Treats others with respect

Notice, among these characteristics you won’t find “expert in their field,” “graduated top of their class,” or “practically perfect in every way.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love having people on my team who have honed their skills and know exactly how to do their thing. We need people like that. We can’t run a successful business with a workforce full of up and comers.

But growing and developing people is what leaders do. In fact, I think taking a hungry, rough-around-the-edges employee with tons of potential and helping them achieve new things and grow in their position and up in the organization is hands down the most rewarding thing about leadership. I love grooming the healthy discontent.

We all have Hi-Po’s around us. It’s up to us to recognize and nurture that potential. Here are some ideas to begin developing those high potential people on your team:

  • Know their strengths and what they enjoy doing. Give them opportunities that stretch those strengths beyond what they’re currently doing.
  • Start an “up and comer” leadership study group. Our iPG team just started one. Each week we read an article, take an eLearning course, or watch a video. Then, we spend time discussing and debating it. We all learn a lot from these sessions.
  • Don’t give them all the answers. Allow them to learn as they go. Nothing kills a high potential employee’s motivation like being micromanaged.
  • Create a safe environment for making mistakes. Of course, you must establish boundaries and check-in points, but they shouldn’t fear your reaction when they screw up from time to time. In fact, I’ve found that screw ups are my best teaching moments. So learn to appreciate and use those opportunities.
  • Help them dream. Paint a picture of what their career might look like. Share your aspirations for their professional success with them.
  • Be a leader that they want to aspire to be. How you lead them is how they will someday lead others.

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