How to Identify and Develop Employees with High Talent

Companies often struggle to find their next-generation leaders. How do you figure out who has — or can acquire — the right strengths to tackle your team’s most challenging problems? 

In the face of such uncertainty, we tend to concentrate on what we know: we search for employees who met their performance goals. And if you’re filling a well-known position where candidates have had the opportunity to display the requisite abilities, this strategy is effective.

But past performance does not always predict who can perform new tasks. The past performance also makes it tricky to spot high-potential employees early in their careers. Consultants at ghSMART created a model for predicting leadership potential based on observable, measurable behaviors rather than achievements. They conducted in-depth studies of 1,500 people, ranging from entry-level professionals to senior executives, using a database of more than 23,000 candidate assessments for employment in public and private firms. They looked at their actions and discovered three psychological characteristics that accurately predict people’s ability to grow and adapt to new roles:

  • Cognitive quotient (CQ): how they use their intellect 
  • Drive quotient (DQ): what inspires them and how they put their energy to work
  • Emotional quotient (EQ): how well they relate with others.

These indicators show how people apply skills on the job. Let’s take a look at indicative behaviors in each psychological area — both commonplace and higher-level differentiators that indicate leadership potential in the future.

Cognitive Quotient (CQ)

Many businesses place a premium on intellectual capacity. After all, it’s a useful quality that we can measure using academic transcripts. We presume that people who perform well on these tests are “smart enough” to learn everything they’ll need to achieve in the future.

But these metrics can be skewed. Candidates who attended prestigious colleges are preferred. They also prefer book smarts to practical smarts and business intuition. To assess CQ, look for the more advanced behaviors that characterize individuals who correctly solve problems. Do they regularly take a step back from their tasks to consider things from the perspective of their boss (or boss’s boss)? Do they strive to check around corners while deciding which road to take to anticipate the unexpected? Do they think about how they can add value to the company while making decisions, no matter how small?

Drive Quotient (DQ) 

When we talk about drive, it doesn’t only mean perseverance. Although that is essential, it is widespread among leaders. The difference here is how people use their energy, both to improve their performance, and also to develop the potential of others. 

People with a high DQ enjoy pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and taking on new challenges. They’re also tenacious: if they have a setback, they regroup, reinterpret, and try again. Most importantly, they are constantly striving to grow not just as individual contributors, but also as an organization.

Emotional Quotient (EQ) 

Companies recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in their leaders, but they prefer to focus on the fundamentals, such as self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and the ability to read a room. These abilities are necessary yet insufficient.

Emotional intelligence is shown by people who engage for effect. For example, those employees who intentionally channel their insights to influence stakeholders and negotiate outcomes. Also, EQ is shown by those who can and will convey difficult lessons with courage and sensitivity.

Developing Potential Talent in Others

Organizations can incorporate a few essential elements into their personnel procedures to tap leadership potential early – and more successfully.

Managers should be trained to spot and develop CQ, DQ, and EQ. If you’re a manager, then you should advocate that people attend meetings with top management. That is where your workers can develop the strategic muscle associated with CQ. Managers can also offer employees tasks that require them to interact with various parts of the business. Through these interactions, employees can learn how to connect dots across the enterprise. Encouraging staff to attend industry conferences and events will expose them to topics and questions that are on the minds of executives outside of their own company.

Stretch changes that put people to the test in new ways can help build DQ. Rotate aspiring leaders into different parts of the company. Give them larger teams to oversee, and observe what they do to get up to speed. Do they wait to be informed of the abilities they need to improve or do they go out of their way to find out what they need to know and how to go learn it?

Start with company culture to assist high potentials in developing their EQ. Assign workers the responsibility of developing these relationships with key stakeholders with an explicit development goal. You can also introduce them to tools and frameworks that will help them better understand how they’re wired, what motivates others, and how to communicate with them. When evaluating someone’s ability to succeed in a new leadership job, examine how easily any missing behaviors may be learned and implemented.

Each of the three skills, CQ, DQ, and EQ, is valuable in its own right. But when taken together, these indicators can help you discover and nurture the next-generation leaders your company will need to face the unknown challenges ahead. They’ll also enable you to tap into a much wider, deeper, and more varied leadership pool than you previously realized.

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