The Most Valuable Practice for Leadership Growth

You’ve recently finished the cyclic performance reviews, and you’ve noticed a few of the employees on your team have the potential to move into leadership roles. Although the company doesn’t have a necessarily strong high potential development program, you still want to give these few employees a chance to grow professionally. The next logical step would be to give these team members projects and assignments that will build their leadership skills. These developmental assignments drive value for the employee, company leadership and HR. Let’s go over why assigning developmental assignments is effective.



Whether you have a multinational organization or smaller multi-department company, these assignments do bring leadership practice and a touch of developmental training to the employees. But what about the current leadership structure and the HR departments? When you’re developing a succession plan for a large, multinational organization, you need employees who will be able to lead as such. These assignments often become cross-cultural, which explains why 76% of senior level leadership believe developmental assignments are more effective than formal training (54%).

Use the conversations during performance reviews to determine what kind of projects high potential employees want to work on, and combine that with your (management) expectations to devise a developmental assignment that is constructive for your employee and the organization. Ideally, this kind of collaboration is best when employees understand their place in the organizational machine, so ensure you have a clear set of goals for them.

Tweet This: 76% of senior leadership believe THIS is more effective than formal training. Can you guess what it is?

High Risk

Yes, giving a novice employee an assignment that has a deeper impact than their normal day-to-day tasks does come with some risk. However, with that potential for utter failure comes the possibility for great success. Ideally, the employees who will be given these assignments already have the markings for a high potential worker, so the risk is subsequently diminished.

Because high potential employees are also high performers, they are able to accomplish more than 80% of their projects on time and on budget. Meaning, while there is a bit of risk giving a fairly novice employee a high-end task, they’ll most likely be able to do the job well, on time, and within their cost constraints.

Tweet This: See why you shouldn’t be afraid to assign risky tasks to novice employees…

Increase the Value

The value of experience and education is priceless, so we are told from a young age. Well, the same still holds true, even in a professional setting. The experience you create needs developmental or learning value to it, not just another check mark on the resume. These developmental assignments are worthwhile on their own, but you can increase their internal value with a few modifications:

  • Minimize spontaneity – Major projects need time, even for your most experienced managers. The employees taking on these high-end developmental assignments need time to prepare and plan the project.
  • Prioritize developmental experiences – Help these rising leaders to see the value in the experiences, not just the value of the project itself.
  • Provide support, but don’t eliminate consequences – While you do need to ensure they have necessary tools, ultimately it’s the employee’s responsibility to finish the project to or above company standards.
  • Build awareness and accountability – Ideally, a culture of accountability is already in place (to some extent) in the workplace, but allowing these growing leaders to truly own their developmental assignments gives them an intrinsic sense of accountability.
  • Maintain a flow of feedback – As always, performance reviews shouldn’t be annual. There needs to be a constant flow of feedback, with the occasional formal review in the mix to gather metrics so you can measure performance.

You’ve groomed employees to work well in your organization, and in doing so, you’ve marked a few of these employees as high potential. Give them challenging developmental assignments so they continuously grow in knowledge and experience. They may be higher risk than the day-to-day assignments, but the cross-cultural and financial benefits outweigh the potential cost. You can use performance appraisals to align these high potential employees to projects that fit their abilities, but increase the value of these projects with a consistent flow of back and forth feedback.

Download: Giving High Performers A Runway