Turning potential into performance

When employers focus too much on candidates’ potential — the best they could do if they were motivated to do their best — they forget that the critical outcome they should try to predict is what people are actually likely to do once they are in the job, in particular their typical performance.

Poor fit: Talent is mainly personality in the right place. Asking detailed questions of your interviewers, speaking to employees, and figuring out whether you have much in common with high-performing incumbents in the same or similar role should help you predict fit. Of course, in some instances your main contribution to the organization or role may be to not fit in perfectly.

Disengagement: A common side-effect of poor fit. The most common drivers of disengagement is poor leadership, a better leader — someone who inspires and mentors you, provides objective and constructive feedback on your performance, and gets you excited about work when you wake up every morning. 

Organizational politics: Although modern workplaces are generally fairer and more data-driven in their talent management practices than ever before, there’s still much progress to be made.

Personal circumstances: The final reason is almost too obvious to mention, but in today’s ever-more-absorbing and 24/7 world of work, it’s easy to forget that people also have a personal and private life, and that no matter how engaged and talented they are, personal drawbacks and setbacks will often interfere with their career success.

Extract of HBR article, 4 Reasons Talented Employees Don’t Reach Their Potential, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, MARCH 18, 2019

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