Deep Pros as Corporate Leaders

This article about furniture maker Herman Miller examines their attempt to develop "deep pros" into corporate leaders.

These people are experts in functional areas–such as IT or operations–but have no interest in growing into general management positions. They are, in the classification system used by Herman Miller, "high performance, low potential" employees or "deep pros."

When Herman Miller launched a leadership development training program, the company knew that it wanted to include the often-overlooked deep pros, but it also appreciated that these people did not want or need the same kind of training as the traditional "high potentials."

Sometimes these experts have no desire to move up a management path. They often think the technical work is the fun work. But that is no reason to exclude them from management and leadership training. For example:

The deep pros, Herman Miller discovered, had some common deficiencies around communication skills and strategic thinking. These people would often sit at a table with leaders from other areas of the business and talk in the jargon of their area of specialty, using too many technical details. Because of this, the training for deep pros will focus on five areas: conflict skills, change skills, dealing with ambiguity, managing a vision and connecting with senior leadership.

It will definitely help them even if they stay in their technical positions.

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Every technical product or system designed by a decent sized company has someone who becomes associated with that product as it's heart and soul. These people become the ones others look up to. They help form pillars around which the company can rally during times of difficult change.

The deep pros are often overlooked in general training programs because many assume that their needs are so specific to their jobs that their training is taken care of in their functional area, Milanowski says. "It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that and to not do anything else for them."

And when that happens, the deep pros can become disillusioned and leave. Milanowski says they take with them not only their expertise but also their steadying presence, since they tend to be the type of consistent leaders that others in the organization look to for stability.

Remember, you need to work on developing all your people, not just a handful of potential stars. I think this article does a great job of explaining why.(Also see this)