A question of potential


By Helen Frewin, Talent Director, Totem Consulting

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The research on potential from two big hitters in management consulting, YSC and Korn Ferry, has many companies asking what they should be measuring for things like aspiring leader or “hi-po” programmes. As a Talent Director I also find many of my clients struggle with this and combining the two models of these consulting firms. But what does that really mean and how can it work? 

Making sense of high potential models

YSC’s model of Judgement, Drive and Influence (JDI) shows us the most critical attitude, behaviour and skills required for successful leaders. To achieve great things, we need to be able to recognise problems, analyse information and produce solutions. We need the self-assurance and ambition to move things on and get things done. And we need strong emotional intelligence to take people with us and gain buy in. 

YSC back this up with impressive breadth of study across nations and industries, and the practical application of that research is clear and straight forward.

So what about Korn Ferry? Equally robust with their breadth and depth of research, it is a different model and set of qualities this company raises up as critical for success. Learning Agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and later apply that learning to succeed in never faced before situations.

It is precisely because leaders are always facing brand new situations, that this curiosity, appetite for learning and speed of learning application is key. The first time a department head is asked to set up a new unit in an emerging market, most of what they know goes out the window. What makes me successful here does not usually make me successful there.

So to be successful we need to be agile or quick to learn and adapt, with regards to people, change, mental problem solving and delivering results.  

Two great models, well researched and backed up.  It’s not surprising then that many businesses are combining these two models to give an overarching definition of potential. The important thing to ask is what are we trying to achieve?

What are we trying to achieve?

If we want to select people who might have the potential to be successful future leaders in business x, then arguably we should conduct our own research on what makes success here.  But that can be costly and difficult to future proof. So instead many of us work with a best fit model, that we tweak to better fit our culture and estimated needs for the future.

And looking at this from a different perspective, what if instead of starting with a company’s review of what success looks like, and assessing who has the potential to meet that list, we started with the individual?

What if we asked each individual where their potential for growth might be? And supported every individual to become their best self? This is the other angle of potential… The more human side, which taps into the statements that come up with every model of potential or success… Some of us are better at some of these things than others.

About the author

Helen Frewin 2Helen Frewin is a business psychologist passionate about making things practical. 

Her background covering consulting and in-company senior management roles has led her to understand both best practice in the market and the reality of how that can (and often cannot!) work in business. 

 
Helen has over ten years’ experience working across industries, supporting companies with development, facilitation and assessment.

www.totem-consulting.com

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