Potential analysis for managers

Potential analyses for managers are also management assessments and belong to the large group of assessment center procedures. They are used as a personnel development tool for individual personnel development (as opposed to personnel selection) in order to determine the potential, in particular the leadership potential of managers. Even though the process is similar to the management assessment in many respects, there are some special features.

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  • Potential analyses for managers help companies to further develop and optimally deploy one of their most important resources, their managers

  • Potential analyses are often carried out on the initiative of managers themselves in the sense of an “individual assessment

  • The instruments used are similar to those used in management assessment, but the aim is not to assess the participant, but to identify their potential and possible development steps.

  • The result of a potential analysis is an individual development and career plan.

References from over 35 years of experience

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Our consultancy focuses exclusively on management diagnostics and can draw on benchmark data from over 30,000 executive assessments.

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Definition: What is a potential analysis?

The potential analysis is a suitability diagnostic procedure for managers, which is not usually about filling a specific position, but about identifying their strengths and weaknesses together with the manager in order to plan their future development in a targeted manner.

The results of potential analyses are therefore not so much answers to specific questions (How suitable is a person for a particular task?) or decisions on appointments, but rather individual development plans for the participating managers.

Potential analysis for managers

There are basically two different triggers for a potential analysis for managers: they are initiated by the company (usually the management development department) or by the manager themselves.

Potential analyses initiated by the company

An important function in every company is the further development of employees. In terms of managers and executives, it is often difficult to create effective development measures, so many of the development measures for executives focus on general general management skills, e.g. Executive MBA programs. Such programs are useful and have their place, especially for managers before the step from a specialist management role to a general management role.

The alternative (or supplement) to such “one size fits all” measures is individual development planning. In a potential analysis, the potential, wishes and motives are analyzed together with the candidate. Three questions are answered together:

  1. Where do you stand today? What skills, competencies and experience do you have?

  2. Where do you want to go? Which tasks, roles and challenges suit your personal life plan, interests and motives?

  3. What are you missing to get there? What do you still have to learn, in which areas do you want to develop personally?

Individual development planning

Use the potential analysis for the candidates' very own abilities, wishes and motives.

Potential analyses initiated by the manager

Managers sometimes ask themselves the questions described above. The manager has been very successful in the past, usually has a largely realistic self-image, has mastered difficult situations, led teams and held various management positions. However, the more successful a manager is and the higher they rise in the hierarchy, the less useful feedback they receive.

She doesn’t receive honest feedback from employees or colleagues and usually only receives results-based feedback from her line manager. Managers are often looking for objective feedback on themselves, their skills and potential.

Wanderung in den Bergen
Individual location determination similar to a mountain hike

We call this form of potential analysis “individual assessment“. The aim here is to find out together where the manager is currently on their career path. 

Similar to a hike in the mountains, a location analysis consists of three components:

  1. Looking back – where did I come from, what challenges did I overcome, what was easy for me and what was difficult? This takes place in the potential analysis as part of the interview, in which the career-related biography is analyzed together to gain insights into strengths and weaknesses.

  2. The view around me – in the mountains, determining your own position in relation to your surroundings, looking left and right, is part of determining your position.
    The potential analysis is about becoming aware of your current tasks, but also about comparing yourself with your environment, i.e. other managers. Test procedures (personality and performance tests) are also used to provide candidates with objective data on their abilities in comparison to other managers. But it also involves looking at the specific environment, analyzing the corporate culture and challenges in which the manager finds himself.

  3. Looking ahead – how far can I go and which path do I want to take? After a joint evaluation of the competencies has been carried out in the analysis, we look ahead together on the basis of this evaluation: Where does the person want to go? Which Properties does she bring with her? And which Competencies are still missing? Ideally, the result is incorporated into an individual development plan with concrete development measures implemented.

Executive potential analysis: Goals and added value

Potential analysis - results as a spider diagram


  • Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, competencies (especially leadership competencies) and development potential of managers.

  • Positioning together with the consultant(s) in the sense of an individual assessment.

  • Derivation of concrete development measures and possible future career steps.

Added value:

  • Candidates (and companies) receive objective feedback on their development potential.

  • The development of managers can be planned individually and precisely.

  • The results of potential analyses can be used when planning future appointments to management positions (succession planning).

Which companies benefit from the executive potential analysis?

  • Large companies usually have standardized development programs for managers. However, these can be even more effective if they are used on the basis of an individual potential analysis.

  • In SMES (small and medium-sized enterprises) there is usually no dedicated personnel development for managers, and resources for personnel development are generally scarcer. On the other hand, it is extremely important for KMU to retain existing managers and make the best possible use of their potential. It is therefore particularly important for KMU to identify the development potential of existing management.

Managers Potential analysis example

Ms. H. is Head of Controlling in a large medium-sized insurance company. She enjoys her tasks, is considered to have high potential and is a potential successor to the Head of Finance (CFO). She wonders whether this is the right position for her.

In the potential analysis with two psychological counselors, she completes various tests and questionnaires in preparation. In the potential analysis itself, various exercises are used to simulate the development of certain skills critical to success in the CFO position. In a detailed interview with Ms. H., her motives and abilities are identified on the basis of her biography.

Overall, Ms. H. has strong analytical skills (compared to other senior managers) and a cooperative management style. What suits her less is tactical and political behavior, negotiating with shrewd opponents and all kinds of sales.

Ms. H. knows that the Supervisory Board is considering selling the company to a private equity firm. For the job profile of the finance director, this would mean having to act more at a political level in future, and negotiations with investors would also be part of this role.

Self-critically, Ms. H. comes to the conclusion that she lacks some skills for these tasks and activities – even though she has a lot of expertise for such a role. Although she is very willing to learn and self-reflective, she herself sees a certain risk.

However, since she is very interested in dealing with people (this is a test result and coincides with the results of the interview), the consultants encourage her to complete coaching training and to apply the skills acquired there within the organization in the future in the sense of “job enrichment”.

Our approach - potential analysis for managers

We adapt our approach to the needs and wishes of the participants. Together with the candidate or the organization, we clarify the specific initial situation, wishes and questions in a preliminary discussion.

In the potential analysis itself, we use various methods such as tests, questionnaires, simulations and self-assessment questionnaires. In addition, a detailed interview is always part of a potential analysis – although the interview here has more the character of a coaching session or consultation.

Together, the development potential of the participant is identified and development recommendations and possible career paths are worked out. All of this is then recorded in the form of a written report (although in some cases the participant is the sole recipient of the report and decides with whom to share it).

Potential analysis for managers

Identify development potential together!

How to prepare for the management potential analysis

A potential analysis is not about providing specific services, but about exploring your own potential together with the consultants.

Obtain feedback

The best preparation is to get feedback from others (employees, colleagues, superiors). The following three questions may be helpful:

  • What do you appreciate about me?

  • What do you like less about me?

  • In which characteristics or behaviors should I change?


As the potential analysis is mainly about self-reflection, it can be useful to become aware of your own strengths and development potential. This self-assessment questionnaire can be helpful.

Conclusion: Long-term benefits for your company

The benefits of potential analyses are twofold: the development of managers and executives can be planned in a targeted manner and the possible future career steps of employees are identified.