For an organization to not only survive, but also thrive, it must have emerging leaders with truly high potential ready to take the helm and steer the ship through unprecedented territory at a moment’s notice. And while many companies today tout their leadership development programs offering targeted development opportunities through business rotations and stretch assignments to budding high potential candidates, most of these programs fail to live up to their hype.  As a matter of fact the Corporate Executive Board’s research shows that nearly 40% of all internal job moves made by employees identified by their companies as “high potentials” end in failure.  Considering the amount of money invested in these employees, that’s a staggering statistic.

So, how does the bright shining star get tarnished? Simply put, it’s through Management Missteps such as:

1. Assuming high potential employees are engaged in the business Just because these employees have been anointed as the best and the brightest, don’t assume they are delivering that discretionary effort needed to take your organization to the next level. As a matter of fact, the Corporate Leadership Council’s research demonstrated that:

  • 25% of your emerging leaders intend to leave your organization within 12 months
  • 33% admits to not putting all their effort into their job
  • 20% believes their personal aspirations do not match the aspirations of the company
  • 40% have little confidence in their co-workers and even less in their senior leaders

2. Mistaking high performers for high potentials – High performers are a talent rich group of employees that every company wishes they had more of, but don’t mistake current high performance with the ability or desire to lead at the next level. Seventy percent of today’s top performers lack critical characteristics needed to succeed in future roles.

3. Delegating the development of high potentials to line leadership – this is an easy mistake for companies to make. After all, who knows their people and their talents better than their immediate manager? But when managers attempt to develop talent they are often short sighted because their scope of vision is limited by the size and complexity of their business unit. These limitations can result in candidates being selected for growth opportunities only on the basis of their recent performance in a limited and protected role.

4. Protecting high potentials from crashing and burning – no one wants to see a talented employee crash and burn, but by shielding these rising stars, you may actually be stifling their development and putting the business at greater risk in the long term. True leadership development takes place when emerging talent is tried by fire where new capabilities must be acquired to survive.

5. Expecting emerging stars to “share the pain” – the past 2 years have caused a lot of organizations to take drastic measures to cut costs just to survive. But implementing across the board pay freezes or salary cuts quickly disillusions high potential employees, who generally contribute 20% more effort than their peers, resulting in disengagement from the business. Considering that highly disengaged employees’ discretionary effort is sometimes 50% lower than engaged employees, what CEO can afford to lose that kind of productivity from their core contributors, especially when they are trying to emerge from the worst economic time since the Great Depression?

6. Failing to align emerging leaders to your corporate strategy – high potential employees are often considered high potentials because they are intuitive and decisive. They are acutely aware of the health of your organization and have very specific ideas about the direction you should be heading. But if in difficult times you cease sharing your strategy with these superstars, you run the risk of disengaging them just when their talent is needed the most.

Your emerging leaders are your company’s very future. They are the ones who will launch new businesses, develop new products, find new ways to eliminate waste and reduce costs, build dynamic customer relationships and drive innovation – you can’t afford to derail them through management missteps.