3 Steps to Create an Effective Individual Development Plan

3 Steps to Create an Effective Individual Development Plan
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Creating High Performers Using an Effective Individual Development Plan

Too often, companies, leaders, and individuals are unclear about people’s strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and standards for excellence.  Top performers know what success looks like, what is required to succeed, and how to chart the shortest and most likely path to success.  To improve individual skills and performance, you must assess each person’s starting point, agree upon where they want to be, and then create the circumstances to reach the destination.

The Challenge of Developing Others
For years, companies have asked managers to rate their own managerial skills across more than 60 categories.  Sadly, “developing others” always comes in the bottom five.  This is not surprising as most managers’ report being overwhelmed, under-resourced, and under enormous short-term pressure to deliver.

How to Ensure People Become More Valuable
Though it will take time and dedication, the payoff of individual development plans can be huge in terms of increased engagement and performance.  We find that professional development at work entails aligning, learning, and teaching.

  1. Aligning
    Alignment starts with understanding the context of what matters most to your company, your boss, and yourself. This context should then be used to create clear, compelling, relevant, meaningful, and measurable individual learning goals that tie directly to company priorities and personal career ambitions.

    Why is alignment so important?  Because many employers don’t see the value in investing in training that does not produce tangible results or in people who are more likely to leave (average job tenure has decreased to 3.5 years).

    If you want your employer to invest in your growth and development, be clear about what short- and long-term success looks like, get support from your manager, and agree upon a plan that helps you, your boss, and the company as whole.

  2. Learning
    Once you have created alignment, it is time to design a learning plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. We believe that an effective Individual Development Plan starts with an unbiased learning assessment about your current potential, performance, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, blind spots, readiness, and motivations.  This is most often accomplished through research-backed assessments, surveys, interviews, 360’s, leadership simulation assessments, and people manager assessment centers.

    Once you know where you stand versus a reliable and research-backed standard, your next step is to create the circumstances to learn, practice, get feedback, and improve.  Even though the 70:20:10 learning research has been debunked, we still like the idea of combining work experiences, interactions with others, and formal education to build new levels of competence and confidence.

    Seek out stretch assignments, job rotations, challenging projects, mentors, coaches, peer groups, conferences, experts in your field, networking connections, and training to help get you where you need to go.  Then practice, get feedback, and practice some more.  Learners cannot master skills without repeated practice and relevant feedback.

    Pay keen attention to understand which experiences and approaches help the most — then double down on them.

    Your last step is to measure your performance> to gauge what is working, what is not working, and what to do next.  Ideally an effective Individual Development Plan provides a true learning and performance accountability system by highlighting areas of progress, obstacles, benchmarks against peers and/or standards, and links to specific learning tools and resources for areas of deficiency.

  3. Teaching
    Teaching others, called the Protégé Effect by some, is where teaching and preparing to teach others helps a person learn that information or skill. Basically, being able to understand or do something well enough to teach someone else improves your own understanding, confidence, and competence.

The good news is that there are many formal and informal ways to put yourself in the role of teacher at work.  Present to your boss, hold brown bag lunches, offer to help another group or teammate, mentor a junior employee, create a peer study group, give presentations, or volunteer at a non-profit.

The Bottom Line
The best leaders understand that their job is to grow their people — to give them what they need to fulfill their potential.  Treat each one as an individual with individual needs, talents, and aspirations.  Your investment in time and their growth will result in a higher performing team that will stick around longer.  A win-win for all.

If you liked 3 Steps to Create an Effective Individual Development Plan, try 7 Ways to Fix Ineffective Learning

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