How Coaching Can Reduce High-Potential Burnout

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

How Coaching Can Reduce High-Potential Burnout

As Baby Boomers exit the workforce at a pace of 10,000 per day, as many as 84% of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders over the next five years.

In response to this looming crisis, companies are pouring more than $50 billion per year into accelerated leadership development for high potentials. However, most of these programs fall short of their goals. More than half of HR professionals lack confidence in their HiPo programs, and 73% of HiPo programs fail to deliver business outcomes or ROI.


46% of high potential leaders fail to meet their business objectives in a new role. Find out why. Download How Coaching Accelerates Leader Transitions.


What is behind this abysmal success rate? The reason so many high potentials fail when they get promoted to a new role is that most organizations focus their resources and support on preparing high potentials to hit the ground running and adding immediate business value, rather than supporting them through their transition and in their new role. The latter surely requires more time and patience, but if it means building a solid foundation at the outset, then the immediate business value is more likely to be sustained business value. Indeed, there is a case to be made for slowing down to speed up.

High Hurdles for High Potentials

High potentials transitioning into organizational leadership roles face innumerable obstacles. We asked senior coaches from AIIR Consulting’s Global Coaching Team to identify the top success factors and, conversely, the top risk factors for leaders in high potentials transitioning into a new role. AIIR Consulting’s research and the existing research on leadership transition point to six dimensions critical to the success of a new leader:

  1. Building relationships
  2. Understanding and aligning with the business
  3. Identifying and achieving quick wins
  4. Understanding organizational culture
  5. Self-management
  6. Building and maintaining a high-performing team

The best organizations employ a structured transition process that provides high potentials support and resources to maximize successful transitions into their new roles. The most successful of these processes is built around executive coaching — a proven method for developing great leaders.

When coaching is provided to high potential employees transitioning into leadership roles, it acts as a catalyst to help them overcome the six obstacles to success and accelerate their time-to-impact.

1. Building key relationships

A recent survey showed nearly one-third of recently promoted leaders named networking a top challenge. When asked what would have helped them most, 29% said more face time with mentors and colleagues. Executive coaches help leaders assess their stakeholder landscape, identifying and establishing rapport and connection the key individuals who will be vital to a High Potential leader’s success. In our experience, one of the biggest errors made in designing a high-potential leadership development program is failing to appreciate just how important it is to build in time for relationship-building and networking.

2. Understanding and aligning with the business

Understanding their roles within the context of their business unit and organization as a whole, and aligning that understanding with key stakeholders, is essential for HiPos. However, achieving clarity among the flood of information leaders in transition face is often easier said than done. An experienced executive coach can help HiPos identify goals that are not only relevant to them, but are also closely aligned with what the business needs now.


How can coaching accelerate leader transitions? Download the whitepaper here.


3. Identifying and achieving quick wins

Focusing on identifying and achieving quick wins is crucial for HiPos entering a new role. Quick wins help high potentials build influence and credibility with their new teams, which is especially important while the they navigate the steep learning curve that comes with the next level of organizational leadership. Seasoned executive coaches can not only help HiPos identify low-hanging fruit, but can also help them maintain the important balance between relationships and results. As Dan Ciampa wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “rushing toward early wins…can be unexpectedly hazardous. That’s because when a new leader takes hold, changes aren’t just about efficiency or revenue; they are also about people’s feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty about what the changes will mean for them.”

4. Understanding organizational culture

In a Harvard Business Review article, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Clarke Murphy state: “an essential element of effective leadership is the congruence between leaders’ values and those of the organization.” Organizations with rigorous high potential selection processes are less likely to have incongruence between a new leader’s values and those of their organization or team. However, another recent article revealed as many as 40% of individuals in HIPO programs may not belong there. Skilled executive coaches can help high potentials adapt to the organizational culture, and identify areas of the culture that may be necessary to change.

5. Self-awareness

Self-awareness, understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses, and self-management, the ability to leverage one’s strengths and mitigate one’s weaknesses, are fundamental to success as a leader. McKinsey points out that “Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behavior. But although most companies recognize that this also means adjusting underlying mindsets, too often these organizations are reluctant to address the root causes of why leaders act the way they do.” Without self-awareness, HiPos will struggle to understand the underlying mindsets that drive their behavior, and will therefore struggle to achieve meaningful change. Coaching can give high potentials a holistic view of their strengths and weaknesses, help new leaders understand the habits driving their behavior, and give them the tools to create real, sustainable improvement that will drive their success.

6. Building and managing a high-performing team

Creating a high-performing team is about more than putting the right individuals in place and setting targets. In Google’s recent comprehensive study of its own managers and leaders, they identified 10 leadership qualities that resulted in the highest-performing teams in the massive organization. At the top of the list is being “a good coach”. However, most high potential employees are not natural coaches.

High Potential for the Bottom Line

When high potential employees are offered support throughout and beyond their transition into an organizational leadership role, it can dramatically improve their odds of success. And, it can accelerate their impact, reducing the amount of time it takes them to reach full effectiveness by a third, from six months to four.

That can create a big impact on the bottom line. 90% of teams whose leader had a successful transition meet or exceed 3-year performance goals, and experience higher engagement, lower turnover, higher discretionary effort from employees and more revenue and profit than average. Additionally, a study showed organizations that invest in leadership development outperform industry averages, with profit growth 3x their competitors.


To learn more about how executive coaching can accelerate a new leader’s effectiveness, download our latest whitepaper.