There’s a thin dividing line between giving people opportunity and recognition that supports them in their upwards career path, and giving them an overblown sense of self that, at worst, might lead to their promising career derailing. 

Take this situation: this person has been identified as a ‘high potential’ for future leadership. The firm has appointed him to represent them on the board of a subsidiary company. Such a role is in addition to the person’s ‘day’ job, which he will still be performing and it is also a considerable step up from the day job. The firm sees this as a retention initiative, as well as offering accelerated development.


This person’s behaviour at board meetings betrays both a lack of self-awareness of the impact he has, and an over-confidence in his own judgement, especially about the real business issues. Probably following the textbook, which has suggested he must ‘challenge,’ he in fact comes over as combative, especially with the CEO. Moreover, his supposedly challenging questions reveal a lack of understanding of the business itself, as well as a lack of understanding of what it’s like to run such a business. This would be fine if it resulted in a better solution, but generally it just slows decisions down, as the CEO has to go and do more information gathering, it ends with compromises that suit no one, and unsurprisingly demotivates the CEO. 

In the other case, this new CEO was appointed to this firm’s most successful division. Clearly regarded as a ‘high potential’ in need of accelerated development, this job represents a huge leap up. However, the top team of this division is mostly new. The organisation has recently suffered severe cutbacks and restructuring. This were due to market transformation rather than internal issues. The firm also needs a new strategy and has to cope with a change of shareholders. The turnover at the top, as well as the cutbacks have caused demotivation amongst the staff. This all amounts to a huge challenge. Can the CEO cope is the big question?


He has not got off to a good start: he didn’t communicate launch sales figures even though they were good, as he thought people might slacken their efforts if they thought things were going well. He also riled people by taking credit personally for the successful completion of a major project, which had largely been achieved before he took over. Here again is someone who is out of his depth.

It is an easy and obvious answer to say that coaching and mentoring support for these individuals could make the difference between success and failure. I truly believe coaching and mentoring can make the difference, but not in these cases. Here I believe both of these appointments are inappropriate, and misguided:

  • The gap between the individuals’ experience and skill levels, and those required for the roles is too great.
  • The people the individuals are responsible for, and are interacting with themselves require a level of support the appointees cannot provide.


Both these organisations need to be savvier at matching people who require accelerated development with appropriate roles, and they need to provide a much broader range of support for such individuals.


Tune in over the next few weeks and I will dissect both these scenarios, and I will also offer some thoughts on accelerated development.


16 May 2018   

©Copyright Janice Caplan 2018