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Bringing Your A-Game President in order to discuss his poor response to the decision to change his boss. His new boss agreed and the meeting was set. His vice president was gracious and not only allowed him to try again, he offered to have a once per month mentoring lunch where he would personally sponsor his development and help him both understand the business more thoroughly and learn how the difficult personnel decisions are made and how to deal with the consequences in their aftermath. The final result was that he stayed on the high potential list and was given a new stretch assignment while awaiting an opening and opportunity to move into the next level of leadership. Asking a high potential to bring his A-Game every day, doesn’t mean that he or she will never make a mistake. Many mistakes will be made and that is all a part of the learning. It also doesn’t mean that he or she can never rest. In fact, rest and pacing is required. What it does mean is that the high potential no longer allows him/ her to let down the guard. Think of an athlete in training who is getting ready to run an important race. There is never a day when the athlete can allow himself the mental laziness of thinking about the pain or the distance or the weather or the shoes or anything else as an obstacle that he/she cannot face and conquer. The athlete has to bring his/her A-Game every time he/she gets on the track. Other areas where high potentials must focus on bringing their A-Game include: Building a cohesive team Many times high potentials are promoted from individual contributor roles into leadership positions or given the opportunity to lead project teams. The most difficult challenges often come from the interpersonal dynamics encountered when managing former peers or handling the politics of competing goals with cross functional teams. High potentials must be able to navigate these rough waters and remain calm, cool and collected. It’s equally important to be able to build trust and provide air cover for direct reports. This includes remaining calm, providing clear direction and coaching when they make mistakes. The team must be organized with set expectations and the high potential will be the guiding force who manages to those expectations, follows through and rewards the team for successes. Collaboration High potentials must also be able to work collaboratively across the organization. Competing for success instead of collaborating can be the beginning career suicide. This type of collaboration requires extensive communication where peers are informed of where projects are, the depth of work involved, when deadlines may be missed and other relevant details. Providing good and timely information not only builds collaboration, it also builds trust. Adaptability In today’s marketplace, adaptability is a critical skill. Any leader who expects to stay a leader must be adaptable, adjusting quickly to changing financial realities, markets, teams, and the competition. Not being willing to hear and truly consider diverse viewpoints, or failing to innovate or adjust quickly enough to new frontiers can leave high performers standing on the tracks while the rest of the train has moved on. Leaders must be able to continually renew, adapt and forge into new frontiers. Build Peer Relationships An often missed key to success for high potentials is learning to work well with peers. Building a trusting and collaborative relationship with peers may be the difference between succeeding and failing. It may also be the difference in whether or not the high potential is ultimately promoted to a senior leader position. Peer relationships are also critical when it comes to gaining support or resources needed across the organization. When the resources are being divvied up, it really helps if the peers across the table want you to be successful. Critical Thinking Executive Development Associates conducts Trends in Executive Development research every two years and our most recent research indicates that Critical Thinking is the most lacking competency in next generation leaders. With the pace and complexity of business and the rate of change required, leaders need a heightened ability in problem-solving, decision-making, creative thinking, and strategic thinking. They need the ability to assimilate information and make high quality decisions quickly in the face of uncertainty and pressure is essential to the success of the leader. In short, they need to be prepared for just about anything, and developing strong critical thinking skills is one very important aspect of being ready. Social Skills Can we talk about faux pas for a minute? While it is rarely covered, social skills have been the downfall of more than one high potential. We recently heard of a CEO of a medical company who got completely drunk at the holiday party and told one of his employee’s boyfriends that he doesn’t know if he will be able to keep from having to do layoffs. The boyfriend discussed it with his smart, high-paid and high potential girlfriend on the way home. She spent the rest of the holiday wondering if she had a job and starting to look for another position. This was a seasoned leader who should have known better and high potentials can learn from this mistake. Bringing your A game means remembering that you are representing the company whether you are attending a business lunch, dinner, conference or on your own personal time. Drinking too much at a company event can lead to career disaster and we’ve all heard of recent career derailers that were caused by controversial posts to Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter. If it wouldn’t look good in the headlines of the newspaper or to your boss, don’t do it and don’t say it. Preparation Finally, high potentials can bring their A game by being prepared. Like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts teach, always be prepared, organized, and on time. High potentials must prepare themselves for success. Yes, they need to do the standard preparation for projects, meetings, etc., but we are talking about a preparation that many miss and is truly crucial to long-term success. High potentials must prepare for leaders by getting and staying fit. Leaders who are well, fit, and rested are able to make more effective decisions and handle heavier levels of stress than those who have run themselves down both mentally and physically. PE Bonnie Hagemann is the CEO of Executive Development Associates. EDA is a 29-year-old internationally known boutique consulting firm in custom executive development. Call +1 816 830 6001 Email bhagemann@executivedevelopment.com Saundra Stroope is an HR manager at Intermountain Healthcare with an emphasis in talent, leadership, team, and organizational development. She is the author of more than a dozen works, including a chapter in Integrated Talent Management Scorecards (ASTD Press). Email saundra.stroope@gmail.com 19 Personal Excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 06.2014


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