Inverted “L” – falls flat

Ok, am probably going to get some hate mail for this post but I want to still say my thing !!

Have you been tagged as a hi-pot, hi-po – different names for high potential, in your organization ? Am sure many of us have been at one time or the other. And then, what happened ? You probably got sent to different training programs, got to meet the CEO once, your travel had no restrictions etc etc and one odd chance, you also got posted overseas for an assignment…. Ok, done and then ? Did your manager or a mentor really sit down and evaluate what is your potential and for what type of work and what level of leadership you can rise upto … Chances are, NO.

Jack Welch created the nine blocker and the corporate world aped it without the rest of the practices. The result is a “motley” crowd that resides in the hallowed inverted “L” and my friends in HR improved the process by doing it twice in a year sometimes, or atleast once a year. There is a discussion on a drop down list of actions and some yelling and some crying and some indifference and the deed is done. What happens to the mistaken identities ? – if you are not truly high potential but have found a place in the inverted “L” due to the percentage quota system 🙂 This is the portion for which I will get hate mails – you are then shunted around, palmed off at the first opportunity and your true potential is never discovered ! The palmed off cases end up in the “improvement plan” con game and usually just leave or are chucked out. Nobody bothers to do the checking on the process and no learnings are recorded and the poor sod doesn’t know what went wrong.

Identifying and developing high potentials needs to be driven with passion and dedication – a good system to identify them, passion in developing them, dedication to provide them the opportunities to fall and learn. Jeff Immelt the current CEO of GE was identified as a high potential when he passed out of college by the GE recruiter and it didn’t stop there. Jack tracked him and the other 149 folks in GE that he tracked personally, and ensured that they got the right opportunities, big problems, uncomfortable postings to develop and hone their potential. We know some of that list then flamed out when they went out to other organizations but GE and Jack did what they could to give them the right exposure. Jack considered it his most important job.

Calibration on who is considered a high potential, a genuine attempt to develop the person (training programs are not developing people) and the courage to let those that aren’t high potential to live out a great quiet life is what makes a great organization. There is a dearth of CEOs, a leadership vacuum in the corporate world …and we go around paying lip service to developing high potentials. Am yet to see a genuine attempt to structure a decent high potential program in many organizations. It is scary to have your ego punctured by being told you are not a high potential but its better to know that, than assume you are one and waste your entire life trying to be one in a job when your true potential lay elsewhere.

And I have to say this – if any high potential without the right values finds a place in the hallowed inverted “L”, the organization has started to lose itself right there. These high performers without values will eat the organization from the inside and lead to dis-engagement and eventually the early death of the firm. So as you calibrate on who is a high potential, ask the poster boys and girls to remove their glares and look deep into their eyes – do they have the guts and character to hold your gaze?

For fun sake, why dont you track what happened or happens to the high potential, inverted “L” group in your organizations ?

3 thoughts on “Inverted “L” – falls flat”

  1. Bindu, I completely agree with you. The reason why one is identified as a high potential is as much a mystery as why no structured action is taken to develop their potential even 50%. There is an eternal debate about who owns a hi-pot and who’s job is it to groom a hi-pot. If we start tracking what happened to these hi-pots, I am sure we will find most of them sitting in another organization or are pursuing their own dreams! Afterall, choosing a hi pot is the easier part of the job. Unleashing the potential is a much tougher job that needs commitment and a genuine interest!

  2. yeah, not so difficult to figure out who has potential for something, but what’s the next, how to make an environment for make the potential come true, and help to build further potential for others, keep development…

    • Joey, it’s also not easy to spot potential and that’s the crux of this post. There is not much calibration on the definition of hi-pot and that leads to some low-pot being identified as hi-pot. And then the program to develop hi-pot’s is needed which again is not very structured.


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