Podcast: How to Lead Your High-Potential Leaders

Businesses are hungry for talent. It is an employee’s market right now for jobs – with the right skills and background, you can practically name your price and your terms. To say that high potentials are in high demand is an understatement. Companies are struggling to keep their high performing leaders, and they have opportunities to take them from other businesses.

The lack of leaders, which has been a problem globally for more than a decade, is reaching crisis levels with the COVID epidemic. Where once businesses were worried about talent succession and not having enough leaders in their pipeline, today they’re worried that their existing leaders will jump ship for a more enticing opportunity that offers career mobility.

In this podcast, Diane Egbers talks about strategies to keep high-potential leaders engaged and focused on growth and development, so they don’t look for opportunities out of your organization.



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The Leading Edge podcast is made possible thanks to the very generous support of Leadership Excelleration. Learn more about our services on our website www.lei-consulting.com. Leadership Exelleration – Be more, lead more, and achieve more with us by your side. Today, we’re pleased to have Diane Egbers, founder and CEO of Leadership Excelleration, with us.


Happy New Year to all of our listeners!

Welcome to the first leading edge podcast in 2022. We have a lot of exciting things happening this year and all of us at Leadership Excelleration can’t wait to explore what is possible in the year ahead. This month, I’ve been reflecting about the development of high potential leaders.

A number of our clients have been talking about losing their high potential leaders, many of whom have been in their organizations for years. Leaders are resigning for positions in favor of new roles in different organizations they see as more challenging and have the potential for greater mobility. Leader turnover has been devastating for organizations that we serve. I have seen some statistics that say up to two times a person salary is what’s required to train a new employee. And I think that that estimate is probably conservative.

It is especially true when we’re talking about replacing a tenured leader who may have this irreplaceable understanding of the institutional knowledge and culture of an organization that’s really hard to quantify and value.

When my clients lose their high-potential leaders, they often ask what they could have done to keep them. And I always answer the questions in the same way. First and foremost, we need to understand the concept of career flash points. These flash points are those critical points in a leader’s career that mark a significant area and time that a leader wants to develop.

The first one is becoming a manager. And I’ve seen many high potentials in the last two years leave an organization because they can’t get their first opportunity to lead people. And a new company is quick to provide it to a high potential.

The second is becoming a leader of leaders. This is that director or first VP role. And when a leader feels they’re ready to lead leaders, they become impatient. The third is becoming an executive and learning how to think at an enterprise level. You know, when a leader is ready to have organizational impact and have a vision for the entire organization and be a Senior VP as C-level leader. They’re not willing to wait around watching for those flash points, and understanding them is critical to making sure that we retain high potential leaders.

There’s a natural readiness that indicates mastery the current level and readiness for the next. When high potential leaders get close to their next flash point, they need a new challenge in their current position, or they need to be promoted to the next level. If it doesn’t happen, often they’ll move on to the next opportunity and especially in an employee environment that we’re experiencing now. They have both the confidence and capability to move on – and boy do they know it.

We’re seeing a lot of high-potential leaders move around right now, probably more than I have ever seen the move anytime in my career, especially in the last year. We had a short period of time where people weren’t moving, and now we have excess. It’s being called the Great Resignation.

I have a theory about a lot of this that’s being driven by remote and hybrid work. There are a few enablers that high potentials need to thrive. They need access to other leaders and executives to be included in decision making and those discussions around decision making so they can see how the sausage is made. They need to be continuously challenged. And that means with new projects, presentations, things that are growing in complexity. These enablers are really hard to achieve in a remote work environment, and high potentials are finding themselves feeling stagnant and sitting behind their computers in their offices and it puts them at greater risk.

It is possible to manage your high potentials in a remote environment, but it takes intention and a good amount of planning. As I mentioned, they need access to other leaders and executives. When you’re in the office. It’s easy to walk down the hall and get someone’s attention for a meeting a conversation that’s about decision making and access and the things that high potentials are really looking for. It needs to be more orchestrated if we’re going to engage and involve high potentials in those things via video conference phone calls.

High potentials need exposure to resources that will help them to grow in their career such as projects and presentations, and they might not be quite ready for what will be required to stretch their skill sets and rise to the challenge in a remote setting. These projects and presentations need to be organized remotely, and it takes a good deal more intention.

While jumping into projects is beneficial for high potentials, observing other executives and leaders in action in social settings is equally as important to really gain understanding of what executive presence looks like and acts like. In a normal work environment, this means giving them access to the things like strategy sessions and social gatherings that are meaningful, where they’re meeting executives that they may not otherwise get a chance to interact with, and high-level meetings that are ways that they can learn how to be a senior leader. When companies operate remotely, it’s important to find ways to create strategy sessions meetings and social events, whether it’s using applications like Zoom and Teams or potentially even hosting webinars.

It’s also important for high potentials to learn to advocate for themselves in a normal on-site work environment. These occasions often happen spontaneously through on-site conversations and unplanned meetings. With remote work, these environments aren’t as readily available, and these opportunities have to be more orchestrated and intentionally planned.

So coming back to flashpoints and a high-potential’s career, when leaders are getting close to that flashpoint in their career, it’s important to make sure they’re being introduced to certain enablers and consistently introduced to them access to how critical decisions are made, exposure to resources that will help them to grow opportunities to observe other executives leaders in a work environment, and support to advocate for themselves when it comes to asking for advancement and further opportunity and then seeing it happen.

High potential leaders are naturally driven to achieve and succeed. There are most confident and most capable leaders. When they look at their career opportunities and current organization do they see these enablers? If they do, they will stay because they signal growth, advancement, and mobility in your organization. If your organization is remote or hybrid, it’s especially important to figure out how to create these enablers within your work structure.

When those of us at Leadership Excelleration think about our role in it, we are there to help your leaders retain your high potentials to optimally perform as an organization. We coach high-potential leaders to advocate for themselves and to bloom with our plant it we help you to retain them so that high performance you retain in your organization. Stay tuned. As we go deeper this spring on the unique strategies that help women advance that’s a life passion for me. Our goals include helping you increase leader retention, creating a robust leadership pipeline and creating competitive advantage for you and your company in the marketplace. Until next time, supporting you to invest in your high-potential leaders.