3 ways to spot a future star
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
As leaders, we often face challenges that require us to creatively reallocate our resources. Taking a second look at our teams can help us spot future stars and create a deeper bench in the process.
Know when to hold 'em
A common complaint about younger generations at work is that they think they can do anything, better than everyone, even with no experience — but sometimes it's true. This type of future star often does one of two things.
On one hand, she could just flat-out tell you she thinks she can do it all. In this case, the best thing to do is give her a challenge to test her mettle. Calling her bluff is what she wants and needs. To ensure it goes well, tell her that is what you are doing, give her the parameters at the outset of what it means to be successful and be clear about what happens if she succeeds.
On the other hand, a future star may just repeatedly but quietly ask for more work. She may do this indirectly by consistently helping or directly by asking if there is anything she can do to help. The major difference being, she has put the focus of her request on the team, not herself. To get a clear picture of her potential, it can help to discuss her career goals with her and start purposely giving her opportunities to help the team that align with her professional interests.
In both cases, giving employees opportunities to prove themselves early is a great way to tell whether they have more potential worth mining — and it can help us address challenges without adding new resources.
Some future stars are like black holes — the way to identify them is by their effect on the employees around them.
In such cases, these budding leaders are not asking for work or telling anyone how they could run the place. Instead, their co-workers are productive and successful; their team leads are confident; and if they have direct reports, they are happy and contributing. Oftentimes, finding a pocket of success in an organization indicates the presence of one of these influencers.
Uncovering the potential of this future star may be slightly more difficult as he is not vocal about it, and he likely has such a subtle but positive influence on the employees around him that they do not necessarily identify him as a leader.
The most beneficial step may be to talk to the people around him to get a sense of what makes him a good guy or the go-to person. Armed with those characteristics, it is easier to create opportunities to shine a light on this hidden gem.
Dig a little
Another easy but often-overlooked way to find future stars is by looking at resumes or LinkedIn profiles of current employees. Whether it is landing a new client, deepening an existing relationship or simply needing to create a new project team, as leaders we have plenty of opportunities to create opportunity for budding employees.
Alma maters, shared geographies, previous employment or current connections are all potential ways current talent can show future potential. Like shopping our own closets, taking a second look at the backgrounds of the employees we already have can provide additional resources when we have a shortage.
The bottom line: Whether we are charged with growing the next set of leaders or just want some ways to increase productivity without adding headcount, finding ways to mine and challenge our current employees is a great way for leaders to spot future stars and deepen our benches in the process.
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