People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 18

How Do Organizations Define High Potential?

The following succinct definition from one organization
captures the essence of what it means to be a high potential:
"A highly valuable contributor with a great deal of stretch
capability within the organization. Such individuals are
typically promoted to higher levels beyond their current
role, and a select few can be seen as leading the organization at the senior levels" (Church & Waclawski, 2010). Many
organizations - and likely yours - define high potential as
concretely as "your capacity to step into a role that is two levels or more above the one you currently hold." If performance is all
about delivering results in your current job, then potential is
simply about the opportunity to deliver results in leadership
roles in the future (Church, 2015).
While companies have pay-for-performance systems to
support this mindset, they need more from their leaders than
just top-notch performance now. They are hungry for talent
that can rapidly grow into demanding roles later. So they
proactively assess the potential for jobs that are several levels
above your current one. The question they ask before deciding on your next promotion is a simple one: "Do you have the
right stuff to rapidly learn and lead in a job that is far more
complex and demanding than the one you currently hold?"
The dilemma for individuals is the highly selective nature
of this talent designation. Our research with hundreds of
18

PEOPLE + STRATEGY

organizations shows that typically only 10 to 15 percent of an
organization's overall talent comprise this pool of high-potential talent (Church & Rotolo, 2013; Ready, Hill & Conger,
2010; Silzer & Church, 2010).

The Question of Potential from the
Employee's Point of View

Aspiring leaders in organizations ask themselves these
fundamental questions related to their careers: What are
the skills, abilities, and knowledge that I need to get to the
senior-most levels of my organization? And do they differ
at career stages or stay basically the same throughout my
career? What does my boss look for when assessing whether
I am a high-potential leader? What other criteria does my
organization's talent review use to assess my potential? Our
research to answer these questions identified five critical
skills that differentiate high-potentials from everyone else.
We call them the X-factors of high-potential talent. Anyone can
learn and get better at these skills, but our research shows
that you must be proficient in all five to get on your company's high potential list. You must always be improving them
to stay on the list. Certain skills are building blocks to others
so there is a sequence that you need to cultivate. No matter
your career or industry, you will find these five skills will
hold true across the broadest spectrum of high-potential
designations, from early career to senior management, as
well as different industries.

So What Does it Take to Be a High Potential?

Over a career, the real high-potential differentiators, our
X-factors, are the secret sauce that distinguishes the high-potential leaders from their peers (see figure 1-1). Beyond your
first or second promotion, it is these skills that ensure you
get and keep a high potential designation. Your superiors
will look for these factors when making the call about your
future potential.
FIGURE 1-1: FIVE SKILLS THAT DIFFERENTIATE HIGH POTENTIALS
FROM EVERYONE ELSE
Five skills that differentiate high potentials from everyone else

Complexity
translating

Importance
Importance

ship potential at multiple levels in the organization (Church
& Rotolo, 2016; Silzer, Church, Rotolo, & Scott, 2016).
For the individual, however, almost no guidance exists (at
least not written down anywhere for people to find). What is
needed is a far more practical and actionable set of behaviors. With these, they can focus on developing their own
high-potential skills and abilities. To accomplish this, we set
about building a pragmatic behavioral framework that individuals at all levels can embrace and deploy day-to-day. This
is the focus of our new book The High Potential's Advantage
(Conger & Church, 2018).
The development of this framework has its roots in a
comprehensive literature review that produced the Leadership
Potential BluePrint (Church & Silzer, 2014; Silzer & Church,
2009). The blueprint outlines the key foundational, growth,
and career factors that are helpful in classifying all the
possible variables that predict whether someone is a high-potential leader. From there, we integrated insights from
many recent studies on high-potential talent and assessment
practices conducted with over a hundred best-in-class organizations. We also studied a sample of high-potential leaders
from 45 global companies regarding their distinguishing
attributes. Finally, in-depth interviews were conducted with
over a hundred high-potential leaders in a variety of organizations and functions along with three dozen senior HR
leaders who oversee high-potential talent. A synthesis of
these many insights led us to identify five key X-factors outlined in our book that represent a new approach for attaining high potential status. We will describe this framework of
factors from the individual's point of view below after first
examining how organizations themselves define the term
'high potential.'

Career
piloting
Talent
accelerating

Catalytic
learning

Situation
sensing

Career progress
Career
progress

These X-factors don't usually show up on lists of leadership competencies or on performance review forms. They
describe more holistic skills and capabilities that integrate
across commonly used talent assessment tools. Possessing
the five can help you achieve that coveted high potential



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1

From The Executive Editor
From The Guest Editors
Perspectives
So You Want to Be a High-Potential?
How to Identify and Grow High Potentials: A CEO’s Perspective with Proven Results
Getting the Right People in the Hi-Po Pool
Wherefore Art Thou All Our Women High-Potentials?
Are Your HiPos Overrated?
Executive Roundtable
In First Person
Linking Theory + Practice
Insight into Action
Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Cover1
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Cover2
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 1
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 2
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 3
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - From The Executive Editor
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - From The Guest Editors
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 6
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 7
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Perspectives
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 9
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 10
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 11
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 12
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 13
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 14
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 15
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 16
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - So You Want to Be a High-Potential?
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 18
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 19
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 20
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 21
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - How to Identify and Grow High Potentials: A CEO’s Perspective with Proven Results
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 23
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 24
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 25
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 26
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 27
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Getting the Right People in the Hi-Po Pool
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 29
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 30
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 31
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Wherefore Art Thou All Our Women High-Potentials?
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 33
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 34
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 35
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 36
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 37
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Are Your HiPos Overrated?
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 39
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 40
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 41
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Executive Roundtable
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 43
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 44
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 45
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 46
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 47
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - In First Person
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 49
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Linking Theory + Practice
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 51
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 52
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 53
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Insight into Action
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 55
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 57
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - 58
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Cover3
People & Strategy Winter 2018 Vol. 41 No. 1 - Cover4
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