6 Ways to Grow High Potential Employees

by Greg Skloot
Management   |   4 Min Read

You’ve identified an A Player on your team with tons of potential. It is incredibly rewarding to watch an employee grow stronger, and one day take on a leadership position in your organization. However, this doesn’t happen automatically.

As a manager, it’s your role to facilitate that growth and nurture high potential employees to become future leaders. From additional mentorship to education, you have many opportunities to help them grow.

1. Give them more responsibility

A players on your team can deliver a tremendous amount of value. In some cases, they can produce the same work as several other people combined. Your goal is to give them as much responsibility as they can handle, without them burning out or biting off more than they can chew. Consider the difficulty of each project they are assigned, and seek more advanced projects to challenge them. They will appreciate more difficult assignments, and your team will benefit from greater productivity.

2. Get them the right mentors

Surround your best people with excellent mentors. As the manager, you should be able to mentor them in certain areas. For specific skills outside of your expertise, encourage other mentors in your organization to spend time with high potential employees on your team. For example, if a Product Marketing Manager is eager to advance her data analysis skills, perhaps facilitate a meeting between her and a Data Scientist on the engineering team to provide additional context about advanced data management.

3. Be a sounding board for them

Just because an employee is a high potential A Player doesn’t mean that they know everything. You can help them grow by collaborating together on important decisions and projects. Reply with suggestions to their weekly status updates. Challenge their ideas at meetings. Push them outside their comfort zone by asking thought provoking questions.

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4. Bring them into high level discussions

I once worked with a fantastic graphic designer who was clearly capable. When we did projects, I noticed she had great input on both design direction and general project strategy. I started to invite her to meetings prior to the design stage. The meetings had nothing to do with design — but sure enough, she added value. This exposure was beneficial for her to expand her influence beyond design, and beneficial for our team since we gained new perspective from a talented contributor.

5. Invest in their education

If you have a software engineer that is constantly eager to learn new technologies, pay for them to attend conferences and bootcamps. Give them a budget to buy books on topics they want to learn more about. These investments are relatively low, and the return on investment for your people and company is so high.

Furthermore, encourage your top performers to host a speaker series at the company’s office. In my last company, our design team started a monthly “Design Talk” series where they invited a talented designer to give a presentation and opened the talk to the community. It was a fantastic opportunity for our designers to take on leadership roles, get exposure to planning an event, and as a great bonus, it was a valuable promotion for our company.

6. Expect them to move on

It is possible that at some time in the future, your organization may not have the right challenge and opportunity for your top players. In that case, you should be supportive of their ambitions to look for something new. Often these people will move on to leadership roles, and they will always remember how you supported them earlier in their career.

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