Select the Right Focus for Your Development Plan

Summary: This article covers the process for selecting and prioritizing what to develop for individual or leadership development plans.

How do you choose what areas to focus your development plan on?

Knowing where to focus your professional development and leadership development efforts is often the hardest part of development.  You can’t and shouldn’t try to develop more than one or two things at a time.  Choosing the right skills, competencies, or behaviors to target is critical because choosing the wrong targets means time and effort wasted, while focusing on the right skills and behaviors will provide an incredible ROI on your development efforts.  

Steps for determining the best focus areas for your development plan:

  1. Take in a variety of inputs including data, feedback, and career aspirations 
  2. Prioritize the areas or skills that will have the most payoff if improved
  3. Create a development plan

1. Consider these inputs when determining what to focus your development on:

  • Feedback from performance management or development processes or discussions
  • Organic feedback from colleagues, peers, subordinates, and your manager
  • Feedback you’ve asked for or collected
  • Self-assessments or 360 feedback assessments
  • Behavioral interviews conducted by a coach with your colleagues about your strengths and development areas
  • Competencies you know you are average at and want to get better at or be the best at
  • Skills you know you’ll need for your next desired role

2. Prioritize your development areas

Once you have reflected and gather those inputs, then create a list of potential development areas.  Prioritize by considering:

  • Level of difficulty of developing that skill
  • Amount of time, effort, and resources you can dedicate to development
  • Are there root skills that if improved will lead to improvement in other areas (i.e., communication or self-awareness)

Based on this prioritization reflection, pick one to two areas to focus your development on for the next six months to year.  Don’t attempt to boil the ocean when putting your development plan together.  Limiting your focus areas to just a few will mean more progress on them in less time.

3. Create your plan

Move your 1-2 development focus areas into goals and plans by:

  • Drafting a development plan including SMART goals
  • Getting your manager’s input and support on the plan
  • Scheduling specific steps to achieve the goals
  • Working the plan and steps and checking in on the plan and your progress monthly
  • Stay tuned for future articles on key components of development plans

Picking the right focus for your development plan is time well spent.  Consider these factors and you will be on your way to focused and purposeful growth.

Let us help you determine which development focus might be most beneficial for you, your team, and/or organization.  Contact us.

Learn more about the benefits and types of leadership development in this article.

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Leadership Development: What, why, and types

Summary: this article covers what leadership development is, why it is critical for leaders, the benefits, and types of leadership development.

Leadership development is an important strategy organizations use to gain competitive advantages. Let’s brake down some the basics surrounding leadership development.

What is leadership development?

Leadership development is a process of purposeful activities that promote learning and growth related to leadership. Development can focus on skill, mindset, behavior, knowledge, and/or capabilities.

Why leadership development is important

Most leaders come to a point in their career where development is a necessity, for reasons from wanting to advance to the next career level, to wanting to address a skill or competency that is standing in his/her way.

Benefits of leadership development

Here are some of the benefits we’ve heard from leaders who have taken on developing their leadership skills and capabilities:

  • Increased effectiveness, engagement, and satisfaction
  • More flexibility in leadership style and approach allows adaptation to situational needs
  • Better leadership creates better experiences for those who I support and partner with including my peers, direct reports, teams, customers, and organization
  • Greater confidence
  • Increased career opportunities
  • Greater credibility
  • From an organizational standpoint, the more leaders develop, the better business results, bench-strength, and greater change agility the organization possesses.

Types of leadership development

We help leaders define their development goals and then choose the most appropriate method for accomplishing them.  Here are some types of development approaches we recommend that help leaders grow their skills and abilities:

  • Coaching– A one-on-one relationship over the course of months to help leaders determine appropriate goals and achieve them toward becoming a more effective leader
  • Mentoring- A relationship over time where the mentor shares their personal experiences to help the mentee learn and grow
  • Courses, training, or learning events– A facilitated group learning event that focuses on one or more skills or concepts.
  • Self-directed– Generally attached to a learning framework, this approach is self-guided and self-paced through a set of materials, topics, and/or on the job stretch assignments.

Let us help you determine which approach might be most beneficial for you, your team, and/or organization.  Contact us.

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Career Sponsorship

Career sponsorship is a strategic leadership development and diversity, equity and inclusion practice that is gaining attention and being deployed in many top performing organizations. 

This post is dedicated to the key aspects of career sponsorship including: what sponsorship is and how it differs from mentorship; benefits to the organization, protégé and sponsor; how to begin being a sponsor; and how to receive sponsorship.

What is career sponsorship and how does it differ from mentorship?

Developing others is a significant part of a leader’s role.  Career sponsorship is another tool to aid in doing this effectively.  

Career sponsorship is a practice of advocacy and support that is distinctly different from mentorship.  Where mentors give advice and coaching, sharing lessons from their experience, career sponsors endorse individuals to help them obtain new career opportunities and assignments. Many refer to this as a sponsor – protégé relationship.

To illustrate the distinction in this function, think of a mentee, who is high potential. This person may be learning and growing quickly, but not quite ready for the next level. It is possible in time that he/she would become your next protégé as they grow their proficiency.  Protégés are individuals who already have the skill, competency, and motivation, yet are underutilized and/or lack exposure in the organization. Mentees can become protégés, but protégés do not always require mentorship. 

What are the benefits of sponsorship?

Untapped talent is a significant risk for organizations, correlating to turnover and disengagement. Career sponsorship accelerates careers, makes better use of the organization’s talent resources, and retains talent.  Through sponsorship, proteges have increased job satisfaction and stronger commitment to their organization, because they feel valued. In essence, sponsors help get high potential employees noticed and create opportunities for them to advance, benefiting both the organization and the individual. 

There are also benefits to sponsors. Those who take a sponsorship role experience greater loyalty and transparency from the protégé, helping the leader keep a more realistic pulse of what’s happening at all levels of the organization. Additionally, we have found that leaders feel more connected and satisfied when it’s apparent they’ve had a positive impact on another person’s career path. 

How to become a sponsor

Sponsorship starts with building trust. This means finding opportunities for potential protégés to build your confidence in their potential. You can start by offering opportunities to potential protégés to see how they do. Some examples are: ask him/her to serve on a committee or cross-functional project team; connect them to a key individual in the organization and see how they are able to build that relationship — do they incorporate any insights gained into their work, and what did key the individual think about the conversation/interaction?

Look for top performers who have good ideas, demonstrate loyalty to the organization and think about long term organizational success, have an appropriate amount of candor and will provide honest feedback, and have a strong reputation with others (although this is not necessary). Keep your eye out for possibilities in meetings, gatherings, presentations, etc. Invite one or two individuals for coffee or lunch, then build a deeper relationship with them and develop rapport by find something you have in common- passion, values, hobbies.  Finally, ask them where they want to take their careers and how they want to develop.

Avoid falling into the trap of picking someone who reminds you of yourself.  Sponsors will learn so much more from someone whose experience is different from his/her own.  Consider sponsoring women, minorities, and veterans.  Studies show fewer of them are selected for advancement, which perpetuates leadership gaps.

How to become a protégé

Start by demonstrating good ideas, loyalty, candor, and honest feedback.  Request a conversation with potential sponsors, offer to help where they need it, let them know about your experience and your aspirations, and ask for feedback or thought partnership on something you are working on.  The goal is to over time help them want to put their name on the line for you, help them know what experiences you desire, and ask them to look out for opportunities for you.

Lead the way

Perhaps you or someone you know felt forced to switch organizations in order to move up or find a dream job. Considering the benefits for all involved, the payoff of career sponsorship is worth the investment. You can lead the way – be a sponsor and/or find a sponsor. 

Contact us for career sponsorship workshops for your executive team including why sponsorship is important and how to do it.

Career Reflection

Reflection is an important part of creating alignment to your values, your passions, your strengths, and your aspirations — the impact you want to make to your work. The old saying, when you love what you do you will never “work” a day in your life, is true. With intention, your job becomes living out what you are meant to do, not simply something you do to collect a salary or recognition.

To start this process, first, set aside about an hour in a quiet space, without interruption.

The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on the alignment of who you are and your career. There are no right or wrong answers and nothing you write is set in stone. This is simply a process that will help draw your intentions closer to your results.

When ready, write out answers to the following three sets of questions about you, your current role, and a potential future role. Download the template here 

In this first set, use the context of you as a whole person, not just you at work. 

  • What are your strengths?
  • What drives you? What are your motivators?
  • What are your passions?
  • When do you feel most engaged?
  • How do you seek to make the world better?
  • What were you put on earth to do?
  • What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be known for?

Now, write out the answers to these questions about your current role.

  • How do you utilize your strengths in your current role?
  • What drives you? What are your motivators in your current role?
  • How are your passions connected to your role?
  • When do you feel most engaged?
  • How do the ways you seek to make the world better align with your current role?
  • How does your current role align to what you were put on earth to do?
  • How does your current role contribute to what you want your legacy to be?

Lastly, write out the answers to these questions about a potential future role(s).  Think creatively and open your mind to new possibilities.

  • What type of role could fully utilize your strengths?
  • What type of role directly aligns with what drives you and your motivators?
  • What type of role directly aligns to your passions?
  • What work is the type of work that makes you feel most engaged?
  • What type of role aligns to how you want make the world better place?  What you were put on earth to do?  What you want your legacy to be?

If you find alignment between your current role and the impact you want to make in the world, consider yourself in the lucky minority!

But, if you find yourself with lack of alignment between who you are and your work here are a few suggestions.

  • If you were able to identify “potential future role(s)” that you would entertain, begin to make steps towards the roles you wrote about above.  See if you can gather experience and education needed for this type of role both at and outside of work.
  • Work with a coach to identify next steps toward a new role or altered role.  You wouldn’t believe how many people we’ve coached who were unhappy in their role so we worked together on an influence plan to alter the duties of their role, create a new role for them in their current organization, or create a path towards a new role.  Many have been able to stay with their organization and are more engaged and satisfied than ever.
  • Perhaps you might decide to take time to move towards a role closer aligned with who you are.  Use other areas of your life like volunteering, serving on a board, hobbies, and relationships to spend time on your strengths, passions, and making world a better place.
  • Perhaps you can’t find a realistic way to marry your passion and profession. Some people make the conscious decision that they don’t need to love their work.  They will tell you “I work so that I can afford and do the things I love” or “my work and my passion are separate parts of my life”.

What if your ideal role doesn’t make the salary you need?  We get this question all the time.  This may be true.  More often, this is a story we are telling ourselves (also known as a limiting belief).  For example, we know leaders who run non-profits or charitable organizations that make handsome salaries.  A statement we love about money is “you can’t have enough of what you don’t really need”.   Happiness is never produced by things external to a human being.  It comes from an inner sense of peace.  Aligning who you are and your career can bring peace.