Rising StarsTop search firms, Fortune 500s, and Sand Hill Road VC firms are increasingly choosing candidates who have spent a year in a business Start Up Incubator rather than those who are graduates of Harvard, Stanford, or Tuck.

The reason, said a friend who works at Heidrick and Struggles, is that, while business schools give you a good theoretical background, they don’t throw you into having to produce results in physical reality.

While there is something to be said for listening to professors talk about leadership, innovation and marketing, it can’t compare with throwing you into the crucible of leading a team, testing you in developing world-beating business models, bringing products to market, and making money.

My point is: extraordinary business leaders, the kind that produce high growth returns, develop in the process of producing extraordinary results, not abstract training programs. The same also applies to developing the high potentials in any 500 organization.

Speaking with a VP of Global Talent Development of a Fortune 100 company yesterday, I was told that they spend a lot of time identifying rising stars and building competency profiles. They then typically ship people off to Harvard Business School or a leadership development center in Armonk where people learn a competency a month.

The only problem, the Talent Development guy told me is that, while this all looks very good on people’s resumes, it doesn’t correlate to leadership development in the real world. “Most of our people come back from these programs, talk about how much intellectual entertainment the professors provided, and the great food and networking they did, but when they get back to the office, they go right back to whatever they were doing before.

He had invited me to his company to talk about using the Masterful Coaching approach to develop his high potentials. The MC approach starts with asking each high potential to identify an Impossible Future they feel passionate about and will spend 25% of their time on, as well as three burning platform initiatives for the year.

The job then is to help people to develop their leadership ability in the process of achieving what they need to achieve. The masterful coach provides power and velocity through using our 12 Catalytic Coaching Conversations. These conversations are employed as people do things like: get buy in from diverse stakeholders, bring a team together, get objectives agreed upon, mount projects, clear hurdles, and most importantly make or save the company money.

Does this approach actually work? As one client at Conoco Phillips told us, “We pretty much stuck to the Masterful Coaching approach and it made the company $100’s of millions of dollars?”

Masterful Coaching offers three programs for high potential development: 1) Become a World Class Executive, 2) Build a High Performance Team, 3) Develop Rising Stars.

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