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Talent Spotting – Potential

Do you have potential? Seems like an innocent question, and of course we all like to think that we would answer the question in the affirmative. But a recent article in the Harvard Business Review puts that question in a new context for successful leaders considering new opportunities. The author makes a compelling argument for the evolution of how candidates are evaluated and even more prescient, how successful they may be, based on certain attributes. The complexity of organizations and the rapid assimilation of new technologies requires new skill sets and the ability to adjust on the fly. It may no longer be the case that a set of past accomplishments is the best indicator of success with a new set of challenges, according to the author, and recruiters are beginning to recognize the changes.

In the past, recruiters could readily develop a job description which included duties/responsibilities as well as a list of specific requirements. One could find candidates based on those criteria and make a selection by matching a candidates skill set, experience and past success. This worked well in the past. But increasingly, we see examples of people, who looked good on paper, were previously successful, but not be successful, or may not be the best choice, in a new environment. Why?

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz’s article in the Harvard Business Review discusses how talent spotting has changed. He describes the evolution of evaluating leaders moving from experience-based competency, to the new concept of potential. He defines it as, “the ability to adapt and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments.” There are five markers for potential he discusses in the article.

1. A strong motivation to excel in the pursuit of challenging goals combined with the humility to put the group ahead of individual need.

2. An insatiable curiosity to explore new ideas and avenues.

3. Keen insight into connections that others don’t see.

4. A strong engagement with work and people.

5. The determination to overcome obstacles.

The article offers a deeper discussion as well as several examples. I recommend this as essential reading for anyone considering new challenges or hiring new leaders.

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