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Tips to Create a Meaningful Development Plan

Continuing the discussion about Performance Planning, this week I want to talk about the Development Plan, the good, the bad, and the ugly. To get us started, let’s review the development plan and its relation to your performance plan. Your Performance Plan's development portion covers opportunities for growth and improvement, determined by both you and your manager. The plan has a list of target items you will work on during a set time frame. Planning typically unfolds during the first quarter of the year, and the plan execution happens after it is created. Development items include growth-related tasks identified by your manager; these could be anything related to your current role or things you’ll need to master before being eligible for a promotion.

Additionally, development items can relate to performance issues or other improvement opportunities. Once you’ve reviewed your managers’ inputs, you will add any other development goals that you have identified for yourself. The Development Plans’ purpose is to create a roadmap that outlines an approach to maturing in a specific area(s). So with that said, let’s jump into my happy bulleted list.

I want to share three tips for creating a meaningful development plan.

1. Be open to the process – It can be hard to feel like you are being criticized or called out for doing something wrong. The development plan’s purpose should never be about shaming or embarrassing the individual. It’s about coaching, improving, and accountability. As a result, the individual feels empowered by the feedback they receive and can make the necessary corrections to move forward. Be willing to consider the validity of the development opportunities identified in your plan. Even if you disagree with the feedback, be open to looking beyond what is comfortable and consider a different perspective. If you need help from your management team or further understanding, speak up for yourself. Have the tough conversations with the expectation that what feels tough today makes you stronger tomorrow.

2. Be specific about the goal – Because this part of the plan is about your continuous improvement, you need to be very intentional about what and how you are improving. So, it would be best if you wrote your goals with precision. The goal is the WHAT. What will be improved? If you write this goal today and walk away from it, will you know what it means? Will someone else reading it understand? If you cannot say yes with absolute certainty, rewrite the goal. The task is HOW. How do you plan to reach the goal? These deliverables are about the work involved in achieving the goal. Finally, the milestones are the WHEN. What is the timing for finishing the steps? How long will it take, and how much effort? When crafting your development goals consider this approach:

  • Goal – top-level, the big picture. This is your expected result and actual development outcome.

  • Milestone – milestones help to create your roadmap or timeline. Dates or percentages make up the milestones. These markers let you know where you are in the process and how close you are to satisfying the goal.

  • Task - this is your increment. These are the small steps that you focus on overtime. As you complete tasks, you reach certain milestones. Depending on your process, task creation can reveal new or modify existing milestones.

3. Be detailed about your progress – Take a lot of notes! You will update your plan progress often. Some of your updates may be required by a due date, while others you will update at your leisure. Whatever process you decide to use, I encourage you to be detailed when providing progress notes. The notes will support your explanation and discussion points when reviewing your progress with your manager. You will likely have progress review meetings weeks after starting your plan, so the detail you include in your notes will be essential to driving the discussions related to your progress and remembering the specific details that can be missed with time.

Remember, the development plan process is all about you. I will be honest what I love about this process is what makes me uncomfortable with it. It’s uncovering the parts of myself that I may not be able to see on my own. It’s also forcing me outside of my comfort zone. I love the Wizard of Oz, the movie. There is a line where the Wizard says, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain; I am the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.” I often describe myself as the “man behind the curtain.” I’d rather others see me doing versus doing to be seen. I had a manager who pushed me to break away from that security blanket. Not that I wasn’t confident in my ability to stand out, teach or lead, I didn’t want to. I had to change my mindset about what it meant to do those things and permit myself to accept how my role was changing. I could have received that coaching as my manager being pushy and wanted to dump more work on me and resist their insights. But I was willing (eventually lol) to trust that they could see something that I could not see. It resulted in new opportunities that I would not have handled otherwise. You may have a similar experience. The feeling of discomfort can appear to be a sign that something is wrong or unfavorable. I'd offer to you that it's actually the opposite. Discomfort isn't always a sign of danger, and it's just an indication that something is new. Growing to a new understanding, perspective, or discipline is new. It's also uncomfortable. This is okay. The discomfort could be a sign that you need to try a different approach.

The development process is about building and not meant to be easy. However, when you commit to the process, the results are worth the effort. I implore you to take the time and do the needful. If you are feeling uncomfortable or unsure, talk to your manager. If your manager isn’t open to the process, look to your internal HR process to help you navigate your options. But I hope that isn’t a factor for you. Remember, they have a development process they need to work through too. Don’t lose sight of what your goals are. You’ll need to find the balance to continue to manage expectations and performance for your current role while working on your defined objectives. You can do it. Success isn’t accidental.

Your organization should have resources available to help you with this process. However, suppose you are interested in goal setting strategies or understanding how to build a successful roadmap, click here to schedule a session. In that case, I’d love to be a part of your development journey.

As always, these are absolutely my thoughts…



*Disclaimer - The thoughts contained in these posts are my own. The advice and tips shared are based on my experience as a working professional. As a certified career and organizational coach, I do share this knowledge with my clients. I do not guarantee any particular results, as results and experiences will vary. Some of my blog content is for entertainment purposes only. Nothing in my blog is intended to be used to diagnose or treat any emotional, mental, or medical condition. For that, please see the appropriate professional. For additional information, please refer to the Terms of this site.

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