Peyton Manning Syndrome: Over-Exposing High Potential Talent

RJ Morris Coaching, Communication, Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Good HR, Leadership, Learning and Development, Outmatch, RJ Morris

If you’re looking for more thoughts on how to develop talent, join FOT for our webinar on Using Assessments to Build Your Superteam (click this link to register).

You’re there, deep in conversation, counseling a high potential early in her career. She wants to move up, and you think she has the chops.  You want to give her the opportunity to get results, exposure and perspective. As a manager, that’s a key part of our job, right?  Acting as an agent for solid talent.

The place where we sometimes mess this up?  We overexpose the higher performer—too many good assignments, too many off-site trainings and special projects. We take a good person who had potential, but her peers think she’s the Peyton Manning of the office. She self-destructs, because people don’t want to work for her.

“There goes Sally—Sheesh, is there anything that lady won’t do?”

As Sally-the-high-potential’s-manager, it’s your responsibility to get her the experience and the exposure she needs.  Balance, people, balance.  Here are the three types of exposure you can give Sally, and a recommendation on when to flex each muscle.

  • Exposure up–this is the safest play. Find projects and presentations that get Sally in front of senior leaders. Possible downside is some other exec feeling like your person gets all the limelight. At most, this is 3-4 projects per year, depending upon complexity.
  • Peer exposure–this is where it gets dicery.  Haters gonna hate, and showing off Sally’s work to her peers too much is a surefire way to get her voted off the island.  Key here is to focus on process improvement.  Put Sally in charge of finding a way to make things better for her peers—usually by finding things we don’t need to do anymore.
  • Exposure down–this is easy.  Get Sally in front of the newbies, running orientations, coordinating peer mentoring programs, etc.  Find things that are important to them, and Sally looks like the awesome mentor you know she is.

These are good guidelines, but flex for the needs of your business. The larger the shop, the more you can have Sally do.  Here’s one key point:

If she lets her foot off the gas, she’s toast. 

Sally needs to lead these folks someday, so you have to find the sweet spot between giving her opps to lead and making sure her peers see her crushing her day job. If not, her peers will be bitter like Selena fans when Bieber posts a selfie to Instagram with his new girlfriend.

For some of you, this balance might not be as important.  If your team is filled with hungry kids, then there’s no problem—dole out the assignments and let Darwin take over.  For most of us, though, we have to get this right to position Sally for her next role.  Balance, folks, balance.

Remember the overexposure of Peyton Manning.

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at OutMatch who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our Talent Selection and Employee Development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time).