I recently met with a friend who recommended a HBR article on developing talent entitled “The Talent Curse,” (Petriglieri and Petriglieri, May-June 2017).  I read the article with interest as it highlights the curse that so often comes for those that are selected for a leadership fast track programme in that it can have the detrimental effects of either slowing down their actual development or pushing them out the door as a result of burn-out.

At Emenex we have long discussed and held the view, as a result of our experience in working with and observing these ‘high potentials,’ that organisations that hand-pick a few individuals to participate on their ‘elite’ development programmes have a detrimental effect on the performance of their organisation as a whole.   Rather than inspiring the workforce, they end up polarising employees between those that are ‘pre-destined’ for future leadership and those that are ‘condemned to mediocrity’ within the ranks of middle management.

We have often considered this from the perspective of those that are not selected who, often starved of development opportunities, end up in ‘job jail’, being frustrated at their lack of development opportunities and end up spending their discretionary contribution elsewhere.

What attracted my attention most about the article was that it looks at this issue from the perspective of the ‘elite’ member and recognises the issues that arise from raised expectations to conform to the desired organisational culture.  As the corporate culture is most often defined by the senior leadership team,  the result is that rather than freeing up true high potentials to develop their skills and behaviours in alignment with their own innate strengths, they set these aside in order to comply with the cultural norms of the current organisation and what they believe is expected of them in order to climb the leadership ladder and fulfill their ‘potential’.

At Emenex we believe in and deliver another way to identify and develop a leadership pipeline that does not polarise but engages the whole organisation and moves the discretionary contribution of all employees to a higher level.  Our experience has shown that it is the cream that rises to the top and when offered the opportunity of development, that it is the true elite that jump at the opportunity and seek meaningful assignments to develop their skills and behaviours.  Organisations that take this enabling and empowering approach benefit from the development of an ‘authentic’ workforce and leadership pipeline, true to their innate strengths and enabled to move their organisations forward in creative ways that had not been considered by the previous leadership team.

So rather than investing a disproportionate amount of the annual training budget on the development of elite programmes for the few, we suggest organisation offer an investment in enabling all employees with the tools and language of development and, most importantly,  in the development of coaching skills in line managers in order to support those employees who seek improvement in their journey.

Once the cream has identified itself, then more resources can be made available to support these individuals in their journey.  The wastage of investment in much less and the retention of the future leadership and management of the organisation much higher.  For more information on how to support employees in ‘Taking Charge’ of their development in alignment with their innate strengths click here

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