A ‘HiPo’ and not progressing part 1? It could be your own fault…

This week I have been reading Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated”, one of the books that inspired Malcolm Gladwell to write his best seller about success, ability and circumstance “Outliers”.  Both authors make arguments very relevant to the leadership development space as they deconstruct the idea of talent as an innately occurring set of traits exclusive to each individual. Both Colvin and Gladwell point to research studies that suggest our talents can be nurtured and developed through a process called deliberate practice. I particularly like Colvin’s book as he notes that it is deliberate practice and not just innate ability that leads to success in our chosen field.

It seems to me that Colvin’s work is capturing the cusp of a watershed moment that’s occurring in some American organizations. Millennials know that they should not expect a job for life, they also know that the opportunity for them to have access to a corporate sponsored pension when they retire is retreating, but high potential millenials still retain the expectation, like gen X before them, that their hiring organization will be proactive in identifying development needs at each step in their career progression. It seems to me that alongside the diminished pension schemes and expectation that you’ll stay with a firm to life, organizations are looking to employees to drive their own professional development through internal and external experiences.

This expectation was brought to life for me recently during a conversation with a millennial running buddy of mine; as he reflected back on his first post college role with a renowned Financial Services firm he was shocked to realize that the firm had not created a bespoke training plan to meet his development needs. He was even more surprised when I pointed out that good career management encompasses more than just executing successful transitions between roles, it also means managing your development and progression once you land.

As Colvin notes, talent development is complex for both employees and internal L & D practitioners. General Electric, Morgan Stanly, McKinsey and AMEX are among the firms that have developed inter – organizational ‘Universities’ to help retain and train those on the High Potential track, but most firms do not have the funding or the high level internal sponsorship needed to set funds aside for such endeavors.

For high potential millennials (and any professional) keen to continue their development despite limited access to formal channels like those offered in the firms mentioned above, I’d recommend Colvin’s book. In it he prescribes a plan for developing expertise through the application of deliberate practice; he uses examples from industry and history including Ben Franklin to help illustrate his highly applicable suggested techniques.

As we move into a new post crisis employment era I think this process will be just as important as managing our career transitions and pension plans. So be on the look out for part 2 in a few weeks when I plan to share how you can move forward.