Do You Know These Common Traits of High-Potential Employees?

In spite of a struggling economy and a stagnate level of unemployment there is a fierce battle for high quality employees in the security profession – in all professions for that matter. Forward thinking organizations are scrambling to develop, recruit and retain talent.  Whether recruiting for talent from outside or inside your own organization, employers are seeking people who have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics that make them prime candidates to become leaders, managers, and visionaries.

Professionals with high success potential don’t all look alike. Identifying them is a challenging proposition and once you have them on your team it is important to make sure they are continually supported, adequately challenged and developed.  By no means a comprehensive list, here are four primary characteristics to look for in these potential high performance employees. The list outlines a range of traits and abilities across the spectrum for you to look for when evaluating employees. The list does not have a narrow focus thus decreasing the likelihood of making a hiring error by concentrating your focus in one particular area of competency or skill.

1. The Capacity to Collaborate

It might strike you as counter-intuitive to seek collaborative ability and skill in a candidate with high potential given the widely accepted notion that leaders rise up the corporate ladder on their own. The reality is that the desire and ability to collaborate with others is crucial to being a success. As an employee becomes a leader in the organization, the more critical collaborative skills become.

Seek employees who have been part of a team or group, are comfortable sharing the spotlight, listen well, and recognize the strengths of others.

2. A Knack for Seeing the Bigger Picture

Employees with high success potential, even when they are not in a leadership or management level tend to be curious and engaged at all times. They show an interest in learning beyond the immediate scope of their role. They are curious about the organizations goals and wish to help in achieving those outcomes.

They will ask questions, talk, listen, and show a desire to learn. They are eager to assist and often volunteer to help. In their mind, they see their own success as being directly tied to the success of the organization.

3. An Effective Communicator

We can all think of examples of effective communicators. When we think of people with this gift we typically envision someone who organizes thoughts well, speaks, writes and think clearly and with passion.

4. The Capability to Change

Change is part of everyday life and is present in all organizations.  People with strong potential can adapt to change as a routine matter. They know things will change, so they’re agile and flexible enough to change too. Some will even have the instinct to anticipate or direct change. This demonstrates they are not rigid thinkers; they can change their mind, change their perspective, and adapt their habits as necessary.


Employees with high potential are all around if you know what to look for.  Many employers use testing and psychological profiles in an attempt to identify them, and these can be helpful to evaluate personality characteristics and predict behavior. However, nothing substitutes for good, old-fashioned human interaction. Engage with candidates…watch your employees; talk with them; witness them for yourself in action and under duress.  You will become adept at recognizing these four characteristics when you see them. Make sure you hire, train and promote these team members and provide them with good coaching, support, and encouragement.

David Lammert

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