It’s NFL Draft time, as if you didn’t know. It’s literally the only thing in sports that’s been covered in the last two lockdown months.
As a coach/team manager, there are various factors that go into choosing the right players for your roster: 1. They don’t have arrest records (if that isn’t #1 it should be), 2. They have undeniable skill, 3. They have potential to become great leaders.
You can be a teachable, athletic football player and not have what it takes to become a great leader.
Say what you want about Tom Brady, but he can lead his team to victory, sometimes even with properly inflated balls.
He had what it takes to become great–and the Patriots saw that potential when others did not. After all, Tom Brady was drafted at 199 in the sixth round, the memory of which still brings him to tears after all the Super bowl rings and supermodels.
Meanwhile, JaMarcus Russell was the overall #1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft as Quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. He was released after three seasons, and the team publicly regretted drafting him, citing his lack of work ethic and party boy nature.
Performance at one level can’t always predict performance at the next level. Potential implies the ability to grow, adapt, and transform oneself as the scope and complexity of one’s work changes and increases.
The ability to identify and nurture high-potential talent is important for any company, whether the objective is to make money for the team owners, win Super Bowls, or to create the world’s most absorbent diaper.
I conducted research across many companies known for leadership and that excel at spotting high-potential employees. The list below details the most common themes; what most often discerns an employee that gets labeled “high-potential.” Use this list to spot the stars or to figure out how to become one.
Here are the top characteristics of those with the highest potential:
1. Ability to Learn and Adapt
This includes learning quickly and internalizing knowledge gained from mistakes and successes and expanding capacity by adapting to working in new conditions. This also includes a heavy dose of the ‘ol “What got you here won’t get you there”.
So be on the lookout for adaptive acumen.
2. A Zeal for Winning and Improving
An ex-P&G boss of mine (and now a CEO of a major company) once told me, “Winners visibly exude a desire to win and get better. Losers hide.”
Fair enough. (I’m just glad he didn’t send me this thought on email while I was on an island-getaway vacation)
Look for those who have fallen in love with the pursuit of improvement and who wear their love of challenge and drive to succeed on their sleeve.
3. Ability to Efficiently Influence
The highest-potential employees are able to influence others quickly, without unnecessary and repetitive overtures, and while cutting through politics. They focus on what’s right, not who’s right.
The highest potential employees are skilled at bringing others along and use personal power over position power to get things done. Which brings us to the next one.
4. Powerful Personal Presence
Related to the above but worthy of its own mention, this means having presence that instills confidence in others. It means acting with great empathy and conducting yourself with an unswerving moral code to always do what’s right. It means inspiring others with your words and actions.
Any leader can flex their position power as they move up the chain–those who use their personal power to much greater effect stand out as high-potentials.
Signs of those with personal power can be seen in those who always do the hard right versus the easy wrong, who lift morale with their words and actions, and who are a beacon of trustworthiness and visible caring.
5. EQ with the IQ
Emotional Intelligence is a hot topic now, and for good reason. Those who conduct themselves in an even-tempered manner with great self-awareness and self-reflection scream high-potential. Likewise if they’re skilled at reading situations and emote appropriate behaviors in each situation.
6. Expert Decision-Maker
High-potential employees count decision making as a core strength. They can sort through complexity and ambiguity to make informed decisions. They remain flexible to new input along the way while holding steadfast to what’s been decided as a general rule of thumb. They see patterns and make connections that others don’t.
So use this list to spot the best, or be the best.