Development planning – it’s really not hard!

Sometimes, when I talk to teams and leaders about development planning, I can almost see them roll their eyes; the idea that, in their minds, we are going to have a loooonggg conversation that takes up time and covers ‘fluffy stuff’. Then when we actually have the conversation they realize that planning 1) is not complicated 2) is not fluffy and 3) without development its really challenging to drive performance over the long term so 4) its therefore critical in a leadership role.

Development planning is important. If you want people to perform in their current role and future ones, they need skill and ability. In today’s ever more fast paced and complex world, roles are often also continuously evolving, so simply because someone performed in the past, does not mean they have the skills to continue to perform at the same level in the future. And, even if someone is a superstar and doesn’t want to move up the career ladder , they should be sharing that skill with others! So development really applies to everyone.

Development planning, in essence is about figuring out what development someone needs to be more effective now or in the future, and how they should go about building that skill or ability. To keep it simple, you can basically focus on 3 key questions.

1. What would help you be more effective or efficient in your role?

We’re not talking about tools here (though that might also play a role), we are talking about what things, if they knew how to do them, do them differently, do them better, do them faster etc. would impact their engagement and performance at work. Maybe they could do better working with certain people or groups. Maybe they could tweak their communication approach to reach a broader audience. Maybe they could use a piece of software better… the list of possibilities is long and exciting. Remember, it doesn’t have to be something that they are “underperforming” in; it can just be something that they could turn up the dial on for even more impact.

2. What would success look like?

This is an important question so that you know what you are aiming for. What is the difference that building this skill or ability would make? What will be different when they get to that point? This helps drive motivation for the individual as well, as they can visualize the benefit of undertaking the development.

3. How can you develop this day to day?

The ‘quick’ answer to how to develop someone is to default to a training program, but that’s not always the best solution. If someone needs to build a skill from scratch,and has very little awareness or understanding, a training program may be helpful, but otherwise, its more likely that on the job activities will have more impact. Consider for example, when and where someone can practice a skill. If someone is struggling to influence a certain person or group, identify a meeting that they are regularly in where they can try different approaches and get feedback from a ‘safe’ person (think leader or mentor). Most soft skills are best developed through practice and feedback, so that is generally the better route for helping people to grow.

Once you know all of that, make sure you capture it. And generally speaking, not more than 2-3 development areas at any one time, not if you want them to really focus! Then the last piece is how and when you will follow up. Hopefully you already have 1:1 meetings with your team members, in which case, make development part of the agenda. If you don’t have 1:1s, then set a check in, maybe each month, to talk about how they are progressing and what they have achieved. Don’t forget to recognize their efforts because what gets rewarded gets repeated!

At the end of the day, the important thing is to be thinking and talking about development. Build your plan! Thats the only way things will move forward!

You might want to read the following blogs:
Top Tips for Strong Development Plans
Training – getting value for money

And if we can help you with your development or the development of your people get in touch at

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