It’s hard to make a leadership development plan. It takes time. Introspection is tough. And probing what you need to do better can force you to face hard truths about yourself. Who wouldn’t rather go to another meeting that should have been an email instead of doing that?
You have to prioritize your own development if for the simple fact that no one will do it for you. Often, what you need to develop is tied to deeply held beliefs about who you are as a person, what makes you good at your job, and things you believe you can’t change.
Studies in growth mindset show that one of the most important parts of development is believing that you can develop, grow, and change. That is incredibly powerful! To get into a growth mindset, one of the most helpful things you can do is monitor your self-talk. When you notice yourself using limiting language, consciously make the effort to add the word “yet” to the end. “I can’t do this… yet.”
Let’s work on the “yet.” Here are questions to help you think through creating a Leadership Development Plan. As you work through the questions, you can create an action plan for the next 6 – 18 months that includes themes you can focus on and concrete steps you can take to start developing.
How do you figure out what to work on?
You may already have particular skills or competencies in mind. If not, think about the feedback mentioned in your performance review. Listen to your supervisor and trusted peers. You can also take a self-assessment or participate in a 360 feedback assessment.
Do you work on everything?
You don’t have to develop everything all at once. Pick a couple of areas to focus on. Figure out which Executive Core Qualification your growth areas are tied to. Use OPM’s extensive academic research so you’re not reinventing the wheel. I’m picking partnering and negotiating as examples. They both fall under “building coalitions.” My 360 feedback says my supervisor thinks this is an important skill. My strenghtsfinder profile listed “connectedness” as a core strength, so there’s a chance I could be really good at partnering and negotiation if I take the time to develop those skills.
How will you know when you’re there?
You have to figure out what it means to be successful at what you’re working on. The OPM guidance can help. As can finding people who are good at what you want to work on and emulate them. For partnering, I’ll know I’m there when I have an extensive network at my agency, I’m seen as someone others can work with and rely on, and others reach out to me when they need help.
What activities can you do to develop?
Take classes, watch TEDTalks find a mentor, shadow, volunteer for projects, role play, read books, add blogs to your feed reader, and discuss what you learn with other people. Keep two things in mind as you make your development action plan. First, set measurable goals. For example “I will read Getting to Yes and find a professional journal on negotiation to read in the next 3 months.” Second, make a plan for incorporating what you learn into your everyday management practice. Sticky notes, calendar reminders, trusted colleagues and mentors that will hold you accountable – do what it takes to remember to use the skills you are learning.
What does an LDP look like?
It can look like anything you want. I like using a table so that I can see how volunteering for a cross-division IT project clearly links back to my goal of “partnering.” Others like to create a word document. Once you formalize a draft in writing, walk through it with your supervisor and use the same interactive process that you’d use with your employees during the IDP process. By the end, you’ll have an actionable plan and your supervisor’s support.
How do I keep up with an LDP?
It’s easy to make big plans and lose track once you get busy at work. Set up a recurring time to review your LDP and ensure you’re staying on task. Once every three weeks is often enough. These check-ins don’t need to be long, but they do need to be sacred. Don’t put them off. You’ll run the risk of never finding the time.
LDPs aren’t actually hard to put together – but taking the time to put yourself and your development first can feel almost impossible. Remember that by growing and learning, you are bringing more value to your role and your organization.