There is a wealth of data collected on internal candidates as well as externals going through the selection process but this commonly hits a brick wall once the hiring decision has been made.
Insightful use of this information combined with the line manager’s expectations/needs provides the opportunity to design an impactful Onboarding and onward leadership development plan. The use of 360-degree feedback on performance at the nine month in role stage offers a further opportunity to springboard the success of the individual. Most organisations fail to fully capitalise on opportunities to shape leadership behaviour. Increased investment in line management performance appraisals is only one part of the solution. Proactive development planning and the scaffolding of appropriate interventions drives leadership improvement.
Managing high potentials by providing them with sufficient Challenge, Support and Feedback is often uncomfortable for line managers who are themselves squeezed in terms of available time. Investing time to coach high potentials so that they can be more successful as compared to spending time with those resisting change is a hard shift in behaviour for most managers to adopt. Far easier to abdicate responsibility under the guise of giving autonomy. There is also a need for both the candidate and manager to recognise that high potential doesn’t mean high performance straight away. The need for regular feedback will be required to release the high potential’s capabilities.
Line managers may not have sufficient clarity themselves about the nature of the challenge that they ask high potentials to cut their teeth on. Discriminating operational priorities, realistic expectations linked to sufficient resources, wider sponsorship support and political backing is all required before throwing high potentials into long standing wicked organisational problems.
Many times high potential leaders are given responsibilities and encouraged to apply their intellect to create new strategies that will benefit the business. Peter Drucker’s observation that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ appears to be missing from many line managers briefing discussions.
Consequently, many high potentials fail to create a performance WOW factor in their stretch assignments because their strengths were not appropriately harnessed and supported. By recognising that new-to-role candidates are not super heroes, that they do have allowable weaknesses and therefore need support in order to be successful can create the conditions that lead to inevitable success.
The best Onboarding and Leadership Transition coaching packages also include assistance to the pressurised line manager building capabilities and offering extra capacity to organisations engaged in rapid growth.
Without strategic alignment to the organisation’s goals and robust individual leadership development plans then the odds seem stacked against high potentials making the transition successfully. Are we really providing our leaders with the best scaffolding to make success easy? Or are we risking their appetite for future engagement in challenges as we throw them into another set of wickedly complex problems?
Research by Shaw & Chayes (2011) identified 75% of high-potential leaders experience significant to moderate problems when they move into a new role.
How is your organisation ensuring they “create, champion, and drive ways to bolster talent” (McKinsey and Company, 2001)?
Author: Peter Fennah
Peter Fennah is Director of Career Synergy, a partner with Ashridge Business School providing strategic executive coaching and agile leadership development solutions to organisations engaged in change.
For over 50 years, Ashridge has contributed to the success of thousands of individuals, teams and organisations by helping to develop their leadership capabilities. We understand that every customer is different, so all of our learning approaches are designed to help you address your specific challenges and achieve tangible results. To find out more please contact Maddie at Maddie.firstname.lastname@example.org