The truth is that top companies known for producing leaders know that performance does not equal potential.
And I would know, as I'm a veteran of the grand-daddy of leadership factories--Procter & Gamble.
Performance at one level cannot predict performance at higher levels. Potential implies the ability to grow, adapt, and transform oneself as the scope and complexity of one's work changes and increases.
So identifying an employee as a "high-potential" should be based on whether or not he/she has the characteristics needed to transform themselves to meet next-level requirements.
Here's the characteristics that correlate with high-potential and that you should watch for like a hawk:
1. Ability to Learn and Adapt
This includes learning quickly and internalizing knowledge gained from mistakes and successes and expanding capacity by adapting to working in new conditions.
This also includes a heavy dose of the 'ol "What got you here won't get you there".
So look for those practicing their adaptive acumen.
2. A Zeal for Winning and Improving
An ex-P&G boss of mine (and now a CEO of a major company) once told me, "Winners visibly exude a desire to win and get better. Losers hide."
Fair enough. (I'm just glad he didn't send me this thought on email while I was on an island-getaway vacation)
So keep an eye out for those who fall in love with the pursuit of improvement and wear their love of challenge and drive to succeed on their sleeve.
3. Ability to Efficiently Influence
The highest-potential employees are able to Influence others quickly without unnecessary and repetitive overtures and while cutting through politics. They focus on what's right, not who's right.
So get skilled at spotting those who are skilled at bringing others along and reducing their dependency on position power to get things done.
4. Powerful Personal Presence
Related to the above but worthy of its own mention, those with personal presence instill confidence in others. They act with great empathy and conduct themselves with an unswerving moral code to always do what's right. They inspire others with their words and actions.
Any leader can flex their position power as they move up the chain--those who use their personal power to much greater effect stand out as high-potentials.
Watch for those who project personal power by always doing the hard right versus the easy wrong, for those who lift morale with their words and actions, and for those who are a beacon of trustworthiness and visible caring.
5. EQ with the IQ
Emotional Intelligence is a hot topic now, and for good reason.
Take special note of those who conduct themselves in an even-tempered manner with great self-awareness and self-reflection--it's like a beacon of high-potential behavior.
Give extra points to those who have learned to read situations and emote appropriate behaviors.
6. Expert Decision-Maker
High-potential employees count decision making as a core strength. They can sort through complexity and ambiguity to make informed decisions. They remain flexible to new input along the way while holding steadfast to what's been decided as a general rule of thumb.
They see patterns and make connections that others don't.
Don't miss making this connection yourself--it's a dead giveaway for finding a high-potential employee.
All in all, knowing the tell-tale signs of a rising star is the first step. Now go find and nurture those who have built such behaviors into their You-niverse. (See what I did there?)