Saturday, May 16, 2015

High-Performance vs. High-Potential vs. Mediocrity

Excellence is not an act, but a habit - we are what we repeatedly do. -Aristotle

Modern talent management is both art and science. However, most of the HR organizations still use static mechanisms to measure talent performance, mainly based on quantitative delivery, with ignorance of qualitative perspective, talent potential assessment, intangible culture effect, and lack of tailored solutions to reach the next level of talent management maturity. For example, as a talent manager, how do you differentiate High-Performance vs. High-Potential vs. Mediocrity, and how shall you treat them the same by treating them differently?

Performance vs. Potential: Performance is well done with current assignments and demonstrated the capacity of doing great work. However, do not assume though top performers are the “top talent” for the future. High performers may be at the top of their game at the moment, but the question is how well will they adapt to changes, having learning agility or their innate capability. This is where the potential comes into play. Potential is about future performance, not past performance. How well does the individual continue to perform and grow in their current roles, how likely are they to take on new challenges at work, rapidly learn and grow into next-level roles, or roles that are expanded and redefined as business changes? Individuals showing potential are distinguished usually by their mastery of new roles quickly and effectively, learning more rapidly than their peers, more innovative. Performance keeps your business running, churning numbers, etc, whereas potential looks at an employee that can bring your company to the next level. The potential is the ability and interest to take on more responsibilities in the future which is displayed by their thought leadership or exemplified behavior. Performance keeps the business moving, and the potential makes the business grow and mature.

Mindset differentiates talent from mediocrity: The one thing to differentiate talented people (either high performance or high potential) from mediocrity is MINDSET, which further drives attitude, high performer keeps engaging in current position with a perfecting mind, high potential keeps learning for expanding the horizon with a growth mind, and they either demonstrate the positive attitude or constructive criticism to build a healthy or even creative workplace. Mediocrity has to be assessed by questioning: Are they simply producing mediocre results because they are comfortable doing "enough to get by"? Are they just under-motivated? Are they just missing experience? Are they under-trained? Do they "care"? There are a hundred questions to ask here. The worst mediocrity is not “the mediocre result,” but a complacent mind and mediocre attitude, such mediocrity often brings negative attitude, sometimes compete via un-professionalism, or lower team morality. While the consistently high performing team was developing, there were high performers, who didn't understand what it took to continuously succeed, or lack of a big picture to build a highly capable team for businesses’ long-term prosperity; and those that were truly mediocre from a mediocre past. In a high-performance team, those people who are performing as less than their capabilities become the key element to success. The high performers and high potential are both needed to lead the team towards a new reality. Those who have a mediocre attitude or negative impact on the business culture should be discouraged, unfortunately, in some organizations, mediocrity gets rewards. If you want to create a truly high-performance team, you have to deal with the mediocre. You have to determine why they perform the way they do and either help them overcome the deficiencies and become a high performer, or you have to find them a different place where they can find their passion. In comparison, mediocrity and talent (with development potential) have these differences:

-The mediocrity focuses on having…The development focuses on being
-The mediocrity thinks impossible…The development has a vision.
-The mediocrity is problem-oriented…The development is solution-oriented.
-The mediocrity thinks it knows enough…The development is eager to learn more.
-The mediocrity sticks to the comfort zone…The development is inclusive to embrace diversity
-The mediocrity competes, more often unprofessionally…The development competes via innovation
-The mediocrity avoids risk…The development manages risk.
-Mediocrity loves to be comfortable. The development is comfortable being uncomfortable.

It's what your expectations are as a leader. If your goal is just to meet the requirements set out by the organization, you can tolerate a certain amount of mediocrity. If your goal is for your team to be the standard that others measure themselves against, you are creating an entirely different team. They require completely different levels of talent and commitment to excellence. And as senior leaders, one of the critical management goals is to build a positive and high-performance culture, because culture eats strategy for lunch. The bottom line, a high performing leader should know that by having good leadership and managing both mediocre and high performing employees, an organization can achieve a better return on investment - (ROI), without ignorance of long term prosperity.


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A high potentialmust first and foremost be a high performer. Someone who achieves measurable results. Someone who does what he/she promises, and much more. They are employees who would like to entrust you with complex projects because they get the job done. These high performers are motivated to do better and get energy from breaking their own records.

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