Achieving Goals Using a Development Plan
As leaders, we have a lot of hopes and dreams for making our lives better and building a better world. It’s difficult to fit everything in that we want to achieve and sometimes it’s overwhelming to figure out what it is specifically that we want. Creating a development plan can help you think through what goals are really important to you and to articulate them clearly. It will also give you a framework to put together a plan of action and highlight the people you’ll need to help you implement your plan. A development plan isn’t absolutely necessary to achieve your goals, but it does provide you with a great foundation to start getting organized.
Section 1 – Setting Your Goals
When writing your development plan it’s important to put your goals into the context of the timeframe in which you want to achieve them. Start listing all of the goals you have into three categories: near, mid and far term. Near-term goals should be ones that you want to accomplish in the next 1-2 years, mid-term goals are on a timeframe of about 2-5 years and long-term goals are the ones you want to achieve in the 5-10 year timeframe or even further out. Long-term goals might be getting a certain job at a certain point in your career or starting a family. Mid-term goals might be completing a degree program or internal training program at your company. Short-term goals might be taking a class, acquiring a certain skill or getting selected to be part of a certain project team at work.
As you come up with your goals, remember that effective goals are clear, measurable and achievable. Try to be as specific and descriptive as you can when write them down. Also, it’s just as important to include the goals that you have for your personal life as it is to articulate the goals for your professional life.
Section 2 – Action Plan for Achieving Goals
After you’ve got your goals written clearly and specifically and arranged into near, mid and long-term, the next step is to see if completing any of your goals are helpful towards meeting other goals. If meeting some of your near or mid-term goals will help meet a longer term goal, use this as the beginning of your action plan. Show clearly how the interim goals will help meet the longer term ones. Then start filling in the other actions you think you need to complete to meet each goal. Look for common actions or themes between them and use these to refine your plan to make it more efficient. Don’t forget to include any skills, education or training you might need to acquire in order to fully achieve your goals.
Section 3 – Using your Network to Achieve Goals
Just as critical as the steps you will take in your action plan is thinking about who the people are that can help you with your goals. You might find that these people associate directly with some of the tasks in your action plan, but you may also find that this is a good place to list the leaders and mentors who will help you on a long-term basis with general support. If you’re having a hard time figuring out who would be great assets to help you achieve your goals, pull out your network map and start aligning the people on it with your goals and action steps. If you find that you have an action step where you need help but don’t have anyone in your network to help you, figure out what kind of person you’ll need to help you and who currently in your network map can help you find those people.
One of most critical aspects of using a development plan is to revisit it periodically to check your progress on your goals and recognize yourself for how much you have already accomplished. I recommend reviewing your plan every 6 months, but at the very least you should review it again at the end of your short-term timeframe (1-2 years from writing the plan). Every time you review your plan you should clear out any goals that you have already achieved and re-evaluate your mid and long-term goals. During this review you should evaluate your progress on your mid and long-term goals and determine if you need to write new short-term goals to meet them. Also, as you move through the years, you’ll want to add new long-term goals as your previous long-term goals get closer. Don’t forget to update your action plan and people sections to make plans to achieve new goals or update your current plans and recognize that you have probably added people to your network who might be able to help you.
What long-term goals are you setting out to achieve? Tell us in the comments!
Photo Credit: By Allen Institute for Brain Science (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons