March 13, 2019

Developing High Potential Employees

by Nathan Mellor, Ed. D.

Through the Institute for Emerging Leaders (IEL), our goal is to partner with organizations to help provide an intensive learning experience for high potential employees. Before we got too far down the road in our planning, we thought it would be good to assemble a group of senior executives to gain additional insight into what they perceived as the needs of their high potential leaders. We were humbled by the quality of people who were willing to freely share a few hours of their time with us, to help think through the curricular needs of the program.

The IEL Advisory Board is comprised of leaders committed to investing in their employees and in their communities. The companies they represent include: MassMutual Financial Group, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Citizens Bank of Edmond,, Gulfport Energy, Bank of Oklahoma, OKC, AAR Aircraft Services, American Fidelity, INTEGRIS Health, MidFirst Bank, Locke Supply Co., UCO, Oklahoma Christian Academy, Chick-fil-A

Challenges of Emerging Leaders

The Board was tasked with identifying some of the challenges that emerging leaders face in their careers. One of the areas that surfaced quickly was the concept of patience.

These executives felt there was a growing tendency among younger leaders to leave their companies in search of new options, for only a small financial advantage or a change in job title. The members of the Advisory Council noted that this lack of patience often cost these employees much better opportunities that would have come their way if they had remained.

Instead of building on the 2-3 years of experience they had gained, they traded it for what was largely a lateral move to another organization where they were going to have to start over in building new relationships and understanding a new culture.

Developing Patience with Emerging Leaders

Patience, like other character qualities, is something that must be learned. For leaders, who are often known for being impulsive, it can be a greater challenge than for others who seem to embrace the concept more easily. I would offer three steps towards learning to be patient:

  1. Communicate Expectations. The people of England were known for their ability to endure hardships through the bombing raids of World War II. This was due in part to the leadership of the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He was extremely honest regarding the challenges they faced and the need for resolve. Instead of offering false hope, he affirmed the character of the people of the United Kingdom, who he said would, “Never, never, never give up.”
  2. Provide Practical Examples. Our character is shaped significantly by the examples of others. Share times in your life when being patient in the midst of a challenging time produced good results. Conversely, share examples of times when a lack of patience had a negative outcome. Challenge the concept of instant gratification and provide a rationale for how life is better when we consider the bigger picture.
  3. Recognize and Honor. If being patient was easy, you would not be reading this article. It is tough to be patient. I was told once that patience is the byproduct of love. I have found this to be true. When we love others, we show patience toward them. On the other hand, when we do not love, we can be impatient. Recognize when people have demonstrated great patience, as it is an indicator of their ability to love others. In healthy work environments, people care about one another and demonstrating patience is a sign that you are on the right track.