Talent&Potential Logo
Mind the Gap

5 tips for creating a Personal Development Plan

Posted by Sarah Hobbs

Why is it that performance and development plan actions are undertaken just weeks or even days before the review happens? From experience, some people (the manager included) begin to think about their future development when they arrive at the meeting. No time is given to prepare for the meeting and no consideration of what the priorities might be for the year ahead.

If you leave it to the meeting and rely on your manager to pull it together, you’ll often end up with simply a plan to tackle all of your weaknesses. Whereas, if you think about it before you meet you can raise things proactively in the days or weeks before the meeting or, at worst, you can be ready to raise them in the meeting itself.

The result of doing this is that you end up with a PDP that focuses on what you want to develop, rather than just a list of problems your manager wants you to fix.

Here are five tips for pre-crafting your Personal Development Plan:
  1. Focus on the things you’re good at. Instead of trying to develop your weaknesses, include some of your strengths (work on things you are “quite” good at), which you’d be interested in improving.

  2. Ask yourself if you can really improve your weaknesses. Objectively consider how long you’ve been trying to improve in each area of weakness and whether it has got any better. Sometimes it is better to learn to live with it and work out how to manage it than fix it. For example, is there someone you can swap that piece of work with, or a system you can put in place to help you?

  3. Be specific. We all know that objectives should be SMART, but the “S” for “Specific” in development terms should be really specific. The reason most development plans fail is because they’re too generalised. For example, instead of saying you need to “develop your communication skills”, focus on the real challenge – for example, maybe you need to improve your grammar or you need to work on your body language.

  4. Avoid making your plan all course based. Training courses are really helpful to get lots of knowledge really quickly as they allow you to pick the brain of an expert. But if you’re already good at something, the chances are that the course will only give you a few extras. Consider if it’s a good investment of a day (and your manager’s budget) just to get those few extra things?

  5. Think about how you like to learn. Build your development plan around the ways you like to learn. Do you like talking to people? If so set up a meeting with someone you can learn from. Do you like reading or internet research? Try listening to an iTunes university lecture. Or do you simply like being thrown in at the deep end to face a particular problem? How can you turn some of the ways you like to learn into some of the development actions on your plan?
Take Away
Having a development plan is really important – but what differentiates high fliers is they own it and drive what goes onto it.