Business + Science

Identifying High Potential Leaders and Innovators within Your Organization

By Bill J. Bonnstetter and Dr. Ron J. Bonnstetter

In order to compete in today’s marketplace, every organization needs to have high-potential leaders and innovators. Smart organizations can do better by developing a process of identifying high potentials and creating a track to retain them.

According to the most recent census data and a June 2013 report from the Aberdeen Group, “firms employing fewer than 100 people constitute 98 percent of the nearly 6 million companies in the U.S. and employ more than 42 million Americans. These small businesses face the same challenges as larger enterprises, albeit on a smaller scale: they need to maintain and grow their customer bases; reduce waste and drive more process efficiency; and boost brand visibility and increase their market presence.” This is especially true for most companies in the Scottsdale Airpark.

It’s the leaders and innovators in your company who help build the future by continuous improvement of current products and services, as well as developing new ones. Organizations not reinventing themselves on a regular basis become obsolete quicker today than they have in the past.

Here are some observable characteristics you will find in these innovators: creativity, futuristic thinking, and personal accountability. They possess uniqueness in identifying challenges and opportunities and a strong drive to find solutions. Every day they are looking for a basic solution or a problem to solve. They exude optimism; every challenge to them is an opportunity; they have a “can-do” attitude.

Along with this love of problem solving, these innovators consider return on investment. They tend to approach everyday challenges with the thought, “I can do it faster, better and more efficiently than we’ve done it in the past.”

They have a desire to be seen, heard and to control their own destiny and that of others. When given an opportunity to solve a problem, they step forward and deliver, rather than waiting for direction.

Once identified, efficient organizations can work with innovators by understanding this need and giving them an opportunity to voice their ideas. It can be difficult to appreciate them; they’ll see opportunities long before anyone else, and sometimes there will be resistance to futuristic thinking. Recognize and support these individuals and their unequaled talents.

They can be hard to understand and so far out front, even their own ideas aren’t clear to them. They need an opportunity to talk about their vision, as this helps them clarify those ideas. Management can get turned off, because sometimes management can’t answer their questions or may not have even thought of those ideas previously.

Just like a professional athlete, innovators may only become a super star when the organization knows how to work with their talent.

When companies don’t identify their high potential leaders and innovators and work to retain them, three things can happen:

1. They can take their talent to another organization and become your competitor.

2. Without a voice and use of their skills, the whole organization can suffer.

3. They can become a catalyst for downward spiraling and be the “bad apple” before they leave.

During the Industrial Age, many people had task-oriented mindsets. Today, the workforce has evolved to a new level with a new generation of employees who excel at dealing with intangibles. Recognize this is as an exciting jumping off point for the future potential growth of your company.

Bill J. Bonnstetter is chairman of Target Training International, Ltd. Dr. Ron Bonnstetter is senior vice president of research and development for TTI. TTI is based in the Scottsdale Airpark at 17785 N. Pacesetter Way. More:,, @ttireseach, @ttiassessments;