Make the most of being in a high-potential team
A high-potential team is full of the top achievers. It can seem hard to differentiate yourself but these tips will help you to stand out in a positive light.
There is nothing better than feeling the buzz of being part of a high-potential team. They are usually the elite crew in any organisation and part of a group that delivers critical results to the business. It could be that they are the ideas merchants in strategy and innovation, or operational experts and the ones responsible for complex implementation. They make the ideas happen either practically, or by persuading stakeholders to accept new products, services or processes.
High-potential teams at their core tend to be competitive. Whether they have been hired for their intellectual capacity or practical skills and experience, it’s very hard to stand out. This is especially the case around alpha personalities, whether male or female. If you are more introverted or collaborative it’s more difficult to gain the recognition you deserve and differentiate yourself. As a woman on a high-potential team it is highly likely you will be in the minority and you will be visible because of your gender. This can be a double-edged sword. It’s important to stand out for the right reasons and to understand and be prepared for any push-back that you might experience.
Characteristics of a high potential team
The characteristics of a high-potential team tend to be male coded. But as our expectations of leadership are changing to become more diverse and inclusive, those characteristics are becoming broader. Here are some that come to mind:
#1 Have a career management strategy
If you are part of a high-potential team you will almost certainly have a career strategy which goes beyond your current role. It is very rare that someone lands in a hi-po group by accident. You will be focused and have drive and this will have been evident from your school days. However, women tend to be less likely than men to have an ongoing career strategy, so be careful you don’t take your foot off the pedal.
#2 Understand their strengths and development needs
As part of a high-potential team you will be self-aware and understand your strengths and development needs. You frequently reflect on your goals and vision.
#3 Life learners
Because you know what you need to work on, you will be open to learning new skills and interested in a range of growth opportunities and stretch assignments to broaden your experience.
#4 Relationship builders
You will understand the value of critical relationships. Whether networking with senior stakeholders or chatting to the IT staff or catering, you make a point of knowing who does what, their key challenges and how you can support each other.
#5 Attentive listeners
As a member of a high-potential team you will be an attentive listener; you observe, ask questions and wait to speak. In this way you find out what is really going on. Most importantly, you are willing to accept feedback about your performance and make the changes you need to.
#6 Able to navigate ambiguity
If you are on a high-potential team you feel comfortable with uncertainty, maybe even excited by it. You can analyse options under pressure and suggest solutions to team mates.
#7 Wide horizons
You will have a broad vision if you contribute to a high-potential team, so you can see the bigger picture but understand what needs to be done to get you there. Most likely you are willing to take risks and can handle a certain amount of failure.
#8 Willing collaborators
You are happy to collaborate to secure a great collective result rather than stand out for individual brilliance. However you will certainly want recognition for your efforts and don’t want to blur into the background.
Here’s how you do that.
How to stand out on a high potential team
This is about differentiating yourself from your high caliber colleagues rather than out-doing them.
#1 Make your presence felt
It’s important that even among your very able colleagues, you are able to differentiate yourself. To do that you have to be visible. The people around you, whether peers or senior to you, must know who you are. Always make a contribution in meetings (you are unlikely to talk for the sake of it) and present your best self in all your interactions. Hannah, joined an elite product innovation team in a household named corporation. She explained some of the challenge:
“All my colleagues have excellent reputations and are specialists in their field whether research, design or marketing. They really are the best of the best! On the R & D side I spend a lot of my time in a lab, and it is hard to stand out in a white coat and sometimes safety goggles! So I decided to tie my hair back with a red scarf. It was compliant with safety regs and I became known as the ‘woman with the red bandana.’ People know who I am even if they don’t know me.”
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#2 Find a mentor and sponsor
Find a mentor to start with. If your company don’t have an official programme, look in the hierarchy and see if you can identify someone who would be open to be your mentor. Building on that as you consolidate your reputation, you can start to develop relationships with senior people. If you’re lucky, one of them may be willing to be your sponsor. Very often once you have established a relationship with your mentor, he or she may be willing to make some introductions.
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#3 Create strategic alliances
Make creating a diverse network part of your career strategy. Tap into every opportunity to extend your reach and establish a reputation externally. This could be sharing your expertise in conferences and workshops, or contributing to papers or projects. Focus on extending your personal reach in line with your career goals. This is one area where women fall behind; staying in touch with the wider market. You never know when you will need outside contacts.
#4 Work on your unique value proposition
Remember that every opportunity is a chance to sell yourself, with the double bind that women are judged more harshly than men when they put forward their achievements. Like Ginger Rogers women have additional challenges. Have your pitch at your fingertips and be willing to deliver it in a way that best suits the circumstances.
#5 Offer support to others
Women are generally collaborative and supportive so this is our normal. We have to pay attention to not falling into a gender trap of always being the “assist,” even on a high-potential team. Sure you should support your colleagues, but also make certain you use the favor bank and don’t hesitate to ask for something in return. This is a concept that women can struggle with. It is OK to call in a favor.
#6 Complement not compete
Working on a high potential team can be challenging when everyone is highly qualified with excellent skills and a strong background. Align yourself with colleagues whose competences you complement. It’s hard to be in competition with your colleagues, especially if they become your friends. Try and acquire or perfect some skills that others don’t have. Jennifer a business analyst in a major financial institution recounted:
“All my colleagues are brilliant! They have great brains and mental agility. I stood out because women are in the minority, but even so I wanted it to be for a value added reason. So I made a point of learning how to use Prezi. It’s a fantastic presentation tool and more complex than PowerPoint. I was advised against it in case I became the person who created everyone’s presentations. But I held my ground and became the go-to delivery person for high level presentations and pitches because my content was more engaging. This frequently puts me in front of some key people.”