Letter: How to spot career potential

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The Independent Online
ROGER Trapp ('How to spot tomorrow's stars among today's employees', Business, 10 October) describes the work being done by Gillian Stamp on career development. This article contains two references to me.

The first is to 'the earliest studies conducted at Brunel University in the 1970s by Dr Stamp and Elliott Jaques, a doctor turned psychologist . . .' In fact, the earliest studies upon which Dr Stamp's work has been built were carried out in collaboration between myself, Lord Wilfred Brown, the Glacier Metal Company and others between 1947 and 1965, long before I appointed Dr Stamp to a research fellow position at Brunel in the 1970s. Nor am I a 'doctor turned psychologist'. I am a psychologist (Harvard) and psychoanalyst (British Psychoanalytical Society) who has had medical training (Johns Hopkins).

The second reference is to Dr Stamp's concern about my 'decision to promote the idea in a book to be published shortly that a person's career potential can be determined by an interview lasting only 10 minutes'. There is no such cursory career potential interview described in the new book, Human Capability, written with Kathryn Cason, that is only now in the final editing stage.

When published, our book will present the results of a highly controlled three-year research project on new and dramatic findings about the nature of capability that I believe will radically alter our understanding of human nature. With respect to Dr Stamp's concerns about career development for employees, the book describes a procedure which I developed over 10 years ago (which Dr Stamp knows about) and published in detail in 1991 in my book Executive Leadership; this procedure has not changed.

This very careful and time- consuming procedure is one in which Managers-once-Removed themselves make the judgements of potential capability of their Subordinates- once-Removed; go through a carefully organised procedure of cross comparison of these judgements with others; and discuss these judgements with their Subordinates-once-Removed, for whose mentoring and career development they are held accountable. In the course of this on-going mentoring process, the judgements of potential are periodically reviewed in the light of working experience.

The reliability achieved is greater than that reported for independent evaluations by experts. The procedure therefore eliminates the need for companies to hire external psychologists (or indeed internal ones) to conduct tests or clinical evaluations; a process that in my experience encourages managerial abdication and interferes unnecessarily with the growth of healthy and constructive managerial leadership and working relationships with subordinates.

Elliott Jaques MA MD PhD

Gloucester, Mass, USA