It has happened too often in my HR career. Someone enters the organization: a great guy, a smart girl. After the first few years of dedicated hard work they climb to the next level. Sooner than others, but as everyone understands why, they don’t encounter much resistance. They deliver good results, are quick learners and are great with their peers. Senior managers eagerly take them on as mentees, accelerating their career even further.
Of course these great potentials make the occasional mistake. But they learn from it – keen as they are to keep improving – and move on to become an even better manager. As HR, I love to watch them, and if necessary be with them, every step of the way. To coach them on their first people issues. To counsel them on dealing with their first big disappointment. To share their joy over a well-deserved promotion. To protect them from being crushed by politics, when they first join the big league of top-management.
As HR manager I go the extra mile for them. Because I know that person is worth it. Because I see they are able to do what is needed for the organization. Because they will make this a better place for their colleagues. I want to help them unleashing that valuable potential.
But sometimes, that dreadful day comes. The day that I find that person is gone.
That keen, eager high potential is no more…
Instead, I suddenly find myself talking to an over-confident, pompous, self-righteous, run-of-the-mill manager embracing no other ideas than his own. Someone who pulled up a powerful reflective shield resisting all criticism, regardless of how well-meant or to the point it is.
Gone are the days of growth. Of continuously developing into a greater leader. Of hope she can become the next CEO who I’d be so proud to work for.
When a high-potential choses to give up on the powerful gift of self-reflection, he loses the potential to become a great leader. A leader who has the power to fuel a great team, or lead an organization through a necessary transformation, or sustain the organizations’ incredible growth.
When giving up on self-reflection, inevitably, potential turns into mediocracy.
On such a day, a little piece inside of me dies…