Six steps to a personal development plan

A key leadership competency is self-awareness, the ability to understand what makes you tick as well as your strengths and weaknesses. An important adjunct to this is taking responsibility for one’s own learning experiences to help develop the skills to lead others and excel at work. That’s why everyone should have a personal development plan in addition to the more typical performance plans, which are focused on work-related outcomes rather than learning.

Professional development does not consist simply of attending discrete events such as workshops and seminars. Rather, it also should be a set of on-going activities including the following:

  • reading articles and books related to learning goals
  • networking with peers in other organizations
  • seeking performance feedback from superiors, peers, and mentors

Follow these six steps to develop a plan that you can follow to enhance your knowledge in your field:

  1. Learning goal: Identify a learning goal for each competency or skill that you want to build. These are the basis of the development plan and help focus your effort on what you want to achieve.
  2. Find learning resources: Do research to find relevant subject-matter resources including useful articles, web sites, books, courses, conferences or training. Use these as the basis of a self-paced learning program for which that you allocate a set amount of time for each week.
  3. Measurable outcomes: Specify one or two results to achieve that demonstrate your learning. Use written deliverables such as learning summaries or identify the new behaviors you will demonstrate (see the table of leadership competencies for examples).
  4. Set a time frame: All plans should have a schedule to help you pace your efforts. Establish monthly or quarterly deadlines rather than annual ones to maintain steady progress throughout the year.
  5. Know the budget: Some, though not all, learning resources need to be purchased. List the costs of any you have chosen if you need to request departmental funds or use your own money.
  6. Match learning goals to organizational goals: Ideally, your learning goals will help you support the organization’s mission and vision as well as develop your leadership skills. Mapping them to your performance goals is one way to do this.
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