High Potential Talent Development in Action: A Real Life Case Example

The Situation: Julie was new to her role as EVP for Sales and Marketing for a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company. She had been promoted based on her passion for results, her ability to grow the business, and her focus on coaching and developing her direct reports. As she took over the sales and marketing teams, she realized that the next generation of leaders would need to be developed across the two functions. The company had a history of promoting people quickly, and at times, not providing them with the resources to strengthen their leadership effectiveness. To address this issue, she wanted to build a high potential talent program that would identify and develop her leaders of the future.

The Intervention: Julie came to us with one goal – identify and develop her high potential talent for the future. We began our engagement by outlining what good leadership would like as the business continued to evolve. What skills did leaders need to possess to adapt to an ever-changing external environment? What capabilities needed to be displayed in order to achieve the sales and marketing targets for the future? How did her high potentials need to lead their respective teams? Most importantly, what leaders were ready for increases in responsibility and scope (i.e., who was ready to scale to larger roles for the organization)? As we worked together to answer these questions, we began to build a high potential talent identification and development program.

The high potential talent program consisted of several components. First, we put together a list of criteria for who would be selected into the program. This consisted of five key factors: a) readiness for increased responsibility and scope; b) performance appraisal results from the last two years, c) a review of succession plans for each department; d) leaders’ goals and career objectives for the future; and e) recommendations from their managers. Based on these criteria, 15 leaders were identified as the first cohort for the high potential talent program. Next, the 15 leaders were put through a development assessment process. The process consisted of the completion of several on-line leadership skills inventories, as well as a 3-hour leadership development assessment interview. The interview covered their work history, career aspirations, and leadership style. This data was assimilated and feedback reports/debriefs were provided to each leader prior to the start of the first off-site.

Once each leader was given their individual feedback, a six-month high potential summit was put together. This cohort would meet once a month for two days at an off-site that would rotate around different sites of the business. The focus for each of the off-sites would include an executive education component on the core leadership competencies for the organization (i.e., vision, execution, team leadership, development people), a fireside chat with executive leadership members (e.g., talks were given from the CEO, CHRO, and COO), and an action learning project that ran the course of the six-months. The action learning project was designed based on future goals for the organization (i.e., generating ideas for the launch of a new sales model). In between each of the six off-sites, the high potential cohort members met individually with an executive coach. The executive coach would shadow them for one day on-site and provide coaching to take the lessons learned from the off-sites and translate them into their business.

At the end of the program, the cohort participants shared their key takeaways, and the project plan for the action learning exercise to senior leadership. The recommendations were reviewed and approved for the development of a new sales model for reps in the field. Each high potential leader was also given the opportunity for an individual debrief with their executive coach. A key takeaway from these one-on-one sessions was the creation of a personal development plan that each leader could focus on after the program concluded. A program evaluation was also conducted with a one-year follow-up to determine which leaders had taken on roles of increased responsibility for the organization.

The Outcome: 12 of the 15 leaders were promoted or given additional responsibilities within 4-6 months following the conclusion of the high potential talent program. The results of the program evaluation were also very favorable, which contributed to the program being offered for a second time to the next set of high potential leaders. Some adjustments were made based on the feedback from the first cohort group. Primarily, this pertained to the time spent on the action learning project during the monthly off-sites. The cohort members wanted more time to work on the real-world issues facing the company. This modification was made for the second cohort group. In the end, Julie was pleased with investment she made in developing her high potentials. Her commitment and sponsorship from day one is what made the program such a success!

For more information on how to develop your high potential leaders, contact Bandelli & Associates at abandelli@bandelliassociates.com.

Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.