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Coach's Corner--August 11, 2008

Development plans don't have to overwhelm a manager

The Client
Name: James
Age: 45
Title: Director of Marketing
Time at company:   7 years
Industry: Financial services
Issue: Creating a development plan
Q.  I’ve been told to create a development plan for myself. I’m also supposed to help my staff with their annual development planning. There aren’t a lot of guidelines, and I don’t know where to start. Can you help?

A. The essence of development planning is determining where you want to grow, brainstorming ideas to achieve the growth, and finding the resources to help you.

The inner game
Before you start, let go of feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by this. Think about all of the other planning processes that you’ve completed successfully. Only the content is different; just break down the tasks into smaller parts to make it manageable. Also, recognize that, in some companies, annual development plans are just a formality.  It's up to you to use this as a process that can help you grow.

Start by taking a clear look at yourself. Identify your strengths, and for each, consider how you could develop new ways to use them. Then, list areas where you could use new skills or knowledge. Prioritize them based on their potential impact on your job performance.

It can be hard to see yourself clearly enough to do these steps, so feedback from others may help. Ask your boss, trusted peers and team members. Completing some assessments, including a 360-degree feedback process, may provide useful insights. Many companies offer these services through their HR departments, or they can be obtained externally.

Now, revisit your strengths and areas that could use work and select several for further analysis. Be sure to select ones that are energizing and appealing; you’re much more apt to follow through if these aren’t just another “should.” Then, take this list and brainstorm ways to build your skills for each. If you’re stuck, find someone to brainstorm with you so that you can get a solid and creative list.

The outer game
Most of your actions will be research and planning, building in feedback along the way.

First, do your research. Find out about internal resources, such as classes, workshops, or mentoring programs. Look for gaps between what your company provides and your ideas for growth. Ask about a budget to get external services to fill those gaps. Then look at external options for training, coaching, or other development services.

Next, review your list of ideas and the resources you’ve identified. Drop the ideas that don’t seem feasible or that no longer interest you. Get your list down to just a few items that you’ll be able to focus on. Try presenting your lead items to a trusted colleague. Talking about them will help clarify your choices and will raise any gaps or issues in your plan. If your heart isn’t in a particular item, it’ll show, and that’ll help you make your final decision. Remember, you’ll need to be able to explain how the items will make a difference in your performance.

Investigate the formal steps that your company requires, too.  Collect the information that’ll be required to complete any documentation and build in enough time for any required review cycles and sign-offs.

The last word
By using planning skills and listening to your gut, you’ll be able to create a development plan that helps you grow, and you’ll be ready to guide your team with their plans.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted August 10, 2008
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Comments and Responses (0) Post a comment

  R. Caetano (November 10, 2008 9:14:14 AM) Reply
Hi James, I think Liz is dead on right. To add to what she was saying, when building development plans for my team, I often try to separate long-term goals from short-term goals. There immediate things that the employee needs to learn or develop in function of his/her job. For instance, if your employee is going to be involved with a new technology in the next project cycle, it is very important for him/her to be trained, so he/she can do the job properly and achieve the short term objectives. On the other hand, there are long term objectives that are related to your employee's own aspirations, and that is something I believe we as managers need to be aware of and help them develop. For example, I had an employee who was a very good programmer. In my development plan discussions, he mentioned his intention to take a project management role in a non-technical capacity. It takes a lot of openness and trust to be able to hear these long term goals. But, this approach gave the employee an opportunity to discuss his future goals and allowed me to build a long-term transition plan, as well as, work on current project deliverables without affecting the team yearly goals. Separating long-term to short-term goals helped me to surface these types of discussions and have a positive outcome. As a final thought, I always think that the most important part of this process is not the paperwork generated, but improvement of the relationship and trust with the employee. Your employees may complain about the amount of work required to do these types of discussions. Yes, they are right! It takes a lot of effort to properly build a development plan. But, based on my experience, the results are often very positive not only for the company, but most importantly for the employees themselves. Regards, Rodrigo Caetano, MBA (Business Strategist - www.invisiblebalance.com)
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