How To Avoid High-Potential Talent Flameout

It’s disappointing when top talent fails to perform after a promotion, but a new article suggests organizations are at fault, too.

How To Avoid High-Potential Talent Flameout
[Image: Flickr user jorge flores.]

You may have seen this happen: Excitement builds as a newly promoted executive prepares to take the reins in the company. But instead of happily riding off into the sunset in a Disneyesque fairy tale, the arrangement implodes.


What happened? Could it have been avoided? A recent article in Executive Insight (a trade publication from Chicago-based management consulting firm RHR International), suggests several issues may be at play, and the ways that companies need to evaluate their programs to avoid this from happening to them.

Set company goals, then find the right fit.

Companies should evaluate their strategic goals before trying to find the right person to lead. What do you want to accomplish in the next three to five years? Which qualities will the right candidate have to take you there? If a company doesn’t know where the business is going, it runs the risk of hiring leaders who look great on paper but don’t have the ability to achieve these goals.

Identify candidates using objective measurements.

Evaluating candidates is often a very subjective process. It’s best to implement a consistent process to review individuals for a new role. Another mistake is “equating future potential with current performance [because] outstanding performance in and of itself does not guarantee success at the next level,” RHR notes. RHR suggests the process include “talent review roundtables” where managers have an opportunity to provide input, thus reducing the risk of selecting the wrong person for the job.

Find (and keep) top talent.

“The first hurdle companies often face is a failure to identify the ‘true’ high-potential talent. But even a good identification process means little if the organization falls short in the areas of talent development and retention,” Dr. Jessica Bigazzi Foster, Global Practice Leader of Executive Development at RHR International, told Executive Insight.

By investing in an employee’s growth through mentoring, coaching or education, the company shows the employee she’s an important part of the team and the employee in turn may see herself as having a future with the company. This is particularly important, the article notes, because other businesses find rising stars attractive.

Have a succession plan in place.

“One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is thinking that selecting or promoting the right person is the last thing they need to do; it is really only the beginning,” the article notes. Having a succession plan and implementing it early on is critical, as integration may take up to 18 months, according to a 2005 study conducted by RHR International. Having a plan in place for both the transition and integration supports the executive, allowing them to implement changes or “course correct” as necessary, the article notes.


About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in,,, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, and Fox Business.