Spotlight: Grow through development planning

People who are the best in their fields do not just do great things because of their innate skill, or talent, or by chance or luck… it is because they all work non-stop on their skills, plans and goals. They do not just “work on their work” – they consciously work on developing themselves so that they will be strong and capable on their chosen path to achieve big goals. When we look at some of the highest achievers in history – Mark Twain, Ben Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and Olympic athletes – you see that they all achieved their professional development through discipline, education, and planning.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. - Leonardo da Vinci

We all know that development is crucial to success. Success is not what you get, but who you become. The only way to become more is to develop yourself through action and self-education. Sitting around dreaming and wishing for success will not bring about change. You will have to make a determined effort to be a lifelong learner and grow as an individual.


Six Steps To Consider When Building Your Development Plan

Get to know yourself.

An individual development plan is only as valuable as it is honest. Start with a self-assessment of your critical skill and development needs. What professional skills do you have? What skills do you need to work on? What are your strengths? What type of feedback have you received at work? What skills do you need to succeed in your dream job?

Be realistic.

An individual development plan should be attainable, yet sufficiently challenging for you to accomplish. It should include the right balance of training, on-the job application, and other assignments that involve higher level tasks and responsibilities.

Use defined timeframes.

Create short-term goals and action items that can be achieved within weeks and months. It is great to think long-term and establish goals for the future (up to 5 years), but be prepared to alter those goals based on changing conditions and priorities. The key is to focus on the short-term goals and opportunities, and continue to build on them toward a longer-term goal.

Be specific and flexible.

A well-written individual development plan is as specific as possible when defining the actions and behaviors that you are going to do to reach your goals. It is likely that you will learn more about yourself as you complete your action items because a key to goal achievement is reflecting on your experience. Reflect on what is and is not working for you. Take what you learn from your experiences and course correct, as necessary.

Track and measure outcomes.

With any goal you need to be able to define success and failure. Sometimes there is not a clear metric to measure results, but it is still important that you define what success looks like upfront and evaluate your progress along the way. How will you know when you achieve the goal? What will it look like? What will be different?

Seek feedback.

It is important to know how others perceive you. Share your goals and action items with your manager, or a trusted colleague or mentor. Solicit honest and constructive feedback from them. Give them permission to be real and honest with you and your opportunities. For many people, providing constructive feedback is harder than receiving it, so be open to their feedback and show appreciation for their input.

If this all seems like a lot of work, think about all the benefits you will gain by focusing on your development:

  • It expands your perspective—The more you learn, the better you can be in life.
  • It improves your mental strength—When you know what you are good at and where you need to improve, it can make you a stronger person.
  • It provides a sense of direction—Knowing what you want to achieve is fundamental to your success.
  • It improves your focus and effectiveness—You are able to do things with higher effectiveness.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. – Ernest Hemmingway

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