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Companies often use the word ‘potential’. It’s thrown around as a bit of a buzz word to describe how a business is genuine about investing in its people. How it’s serious about development and how sometimes it’s even a personification of the company values. For some, it’s even a bit of CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility.

What’s interesting to analyse and even judge is what a company does to:-
– identify potential in-house i.e. through it’s own people
– when it knows it’s got potential, what it does to harness, develop and utilise that

potential to retain talent

Let’s look at the first area – recognising potential internally. A lot of people think they are good at spotting talent. They see a go-getter, a can-do attitude and say, I like the look of this up and comer. However, I guess we are insinuating the person is always young. Isn’t it possible, in addition to a bright young thing shining through, that more mature people can also be stars? The attributes that we look for and identify in a quality person can already exist in what a person has achieved in the struggles of their personal life. Anyone who’s dealt with and overcome problems in their own lives, can often find the intricacies and politics of business life to not be a big issue.

Then there’s the issue of who’s spotting this potential. Have you ever heard the phrase – people recruit in their own image? When we interview, we tend to like the answers or attitude of the person who is more similar to ourselves. Is that really a sincere way to see potential?

In its most extreme form, it’s when a parent is too pushy with a child to be ‘more like them’, to study in the same areas or disciplines and go for the same type of job.

In my opinion, the main people in a company tasked formally or informally with identifying potential are managers.

Let’s move to the 2nd point – how to harness and develop potential. Like the above this is typically done by managers, in the same way they were previously developed. For decades in this country people got senior roles due to time served. Rewarding loyalty is great, promoting someone into a managerial role with all the responsibilities that entails, is dangerous if the skill set isn’t right.

Let’s say you have someone who you rate or the company sees as having a strong future. Is someone genuinely telling this person how highly they are rated or do we avoid this to ensure they don’t get a ‘big-head’?
I sometimes hear of a business apprenticeship or graduate scheme. A set plan to develop a person. Aren’t some existing staff missed off these opportunities, just because they are not new?

Which just leaves us with the idea of retaining talent. Headhunting is a concept that some people think only happens at boardroom/corporate/Canary Wharf level. That’s a big mistake. If you have great staff, people with potential, trust me others know about them. What’s incredible now in business is that the industry expertise is less relevant. Meaning competitors are ready and willing to poach your stars regardless of where they work. A person with potential can easily be trained in a new role. You can’t really put a price on someone with a genuinely positive attitude, behaviour and willingness to succeed.

So some powerful questions to ask of your business right now are:- – who are the stars in your business?
– on whose say so?
– are they really the stars?

– what are you doing to impress, woo and keep these stars?

If it’s agreed that your managers play a key role in developing your stars, then:-
– do you have the right managers to develop the potential of your stars?
– what are you doing to support and improve the skills of these managers?
– how much real coaching are your stars getting, to show that you value their potential?

I’ve spent over 20 years working in people development, specifically leadership/ management development. I specialise in delivering my modular Management Development Programme to clients all over the UK. If you would like to know more about how I can help improve the potential in your business please get in touch.

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Development Developing Potential