Spotting High Potential, High Trajectory People
Issue 40: Recognizing patterns of high growth humans
Zainab is a Sr. Product Manager at One Medical, a membership-based health tech company focused on delivering the highest quality of primary care. It’s a place I spent four years of my career leading product design and research at. Zainab pivoted into product management during her tenure at the company and I got to witness it first-hand. I met her during the winter of 2017 at a cross-functional workshop with our teams from clinical, operations (her team), and product (my team). At the time, she worked as a virtual experience analyst. These workshops were sponsored by our new CEO, who believed in the transformative power of design thinking. The workshops brought people together to identify pain points that can be improved to deliver the best quality care.
Studying cognitive science and economics, along with a few roles before joining One Medical as an admin, Zainab knew how to innovate because of her understanding of how our business works, operates, and using our products on a daily basis. She had experience working with customers directly and understood their pain points. In the early moments of working with her, I knew she was destined for great things in the future.
One Medical was rapidly growing, particularly on our product team. One of the teams we sought to build was product operations; a function that optimizes design, product, engineering, and customer success. I immediately thought of that improvement workshop a few months back with Zainab and thought she would be perfect for this role. As the role opened, I encouraged her to apply…she did the rest. Zainab ended up interviewing for the role and unsurprisingly got the offer. She made an impact immediately, and after over a year in product ops, she switched to product management to work on one of our most important initiatives. If she ever became a product leader, entrepreneur, or CEO, I would not be surprised and would be first in line to work for her.
Recognizing talented people is a skill. I asked people on Twitter how they spot potential from people and there is a wealth of knowledge in the thread. Here are a few attributes that stood out to me:
They are curious and passionate
Possess a growth mindset and own their personal development while asking for help
Great self-awareness: knowing where you are, what you lacking off, what you're good at is important to grow
Curiosity and commitment to a certain problem: this can show how deep they can describe their previous work
The willingness to be wrong and learn from it
In addition to potential, career trajectory is important. this is how far someone might go in their career. Zainab’s sum of career achievements combined with the desire of where she wanted to go in her career convinced me to believe she had a higher trajectory than others. Where some might have the same potential and skills as her, she had the desire to have further impact.
One tool some leaders use to evaluate talent is the 9-box leadership competency model. As the name eludes, it’s nine boxes on a matrix that helps identify someone’s growth potential.
Naturally, everyone looks at a matrix like this and immediately wants the top-right. It’s important to mention that career trajectory should not measure the value of someone’s impact in the workplace. Regardless of potential and trajectory, career growth for people is an investment, commitment, and need a positive environment to thrive. Because you identified people with these attributes doesn’t mean you only hire and promote.
People like Zainab out there simply need a connection to fuel their trajectory. Help them spot it.