Personal Development Plans… or, why you don’t want to be Icarus

Has your development plan lost the personal_It doesn’t matter which side of the table you are sitting on, working through development planning as an employee or with your employees can be painful.

The conversation sometimes goes like this:

“I don’t know, I’ve been here so long, what is there really left to learn?”


“There is so much uncertainty right now, why even bother.”


“I don’t need a personal development plan, I’m doing what I want, and I’m happy where I am, nothing to learn here…”

or from the manager…

“Just fill in a couple goals here so we can sign it off, and call it done.”


So why do we do them? And here’s a tip, if you aren’t doing a personal development plan, either as an employee or with your employees you need to be. Now.

But why?

Personal development plans (PDPs) give you an opportunity to sit with your employee and determine what their desires are. This is a fantastic opportunity to determine if your employee has a set of skills, or the desire to develop them, that can catapult your business to the next level. At no time should either of you be suffering from a level of hubris or complacency that indicates growth is no longer necessary.

Need I remind you of Icarus? Ok, for some I might need to. Icarus was that young fellow with the wings made of wax and feathers who flew too close to the sun. Why did he do that? Because he was smug, and lacked critical thought of his ability, skill, and surroundings. He stopped learning and growing and it ended up in disaster. After getting too close to the sun, the wax melted, the wings failed, and Icarus plummeted from the sky into the sea where he drowned.

We can apply the Icarus theory to many things. Today, let’s apply it to what happens when an employee or employer suffer from this complacency. Innovation stops, improvement stagnates, morale starts to slip, and employees start to leave to find something better, a place where they can use different materials on their wings, so they can fly higher than the sun!

So what do we do about it? Well, first of all the personal development planning process has to be owned by both parties. This is not just the boss coming to the employee to get this checked off a list, and this isn’t about an employee throwing a few goals in so that the boss quits being a pest.

  1. Be transparent – both of you. If there are changes happening in the company don’t sugar coat it, use it. Talk about the fact that there have been a lot of changes lately, and the importance of working together to build skill-sets that will not only support current work and positions, but prove transferable to other departments, roles, etc. Truth of the matter, nothing is guaranteed. This only increases the importance of the PDP. No matter what you do, constant development will elevate you as new opportunities arise.
  2. Get uncomfortable – Remember that only by stepping outside our comfort zone does growth actually start. So where can you be better? And don’t say nothing. There is always something that people can work on. If new to a role, it is usually easy to determine what these areas are, as we stay in the same role for longer periods of time, this does get trickier. However, there is likely something, whether its a skill, behaviour, or attitude, there is something that pulls at the back of your mind every time it comes up. The time is NOW!
  3. Focus on what’s next – Maybe this role has been mastered. Congratulations, let’s celebrate this. And now, let’s talk about what is next. Is there a role that is a great fit, maybe its not available yet, maybe there is a skill that is lacking. Let’s get that covered. Use this time and opportunity to develop any skills, contacts, networks, etc that will support the jump.
  4. DON’T FORGET THE PERSONAL – Look it’s called a PERSONAL development plan. That means there might be some personal areas or goals that you want to focus on. I’m a firm believer that if you are developing in your personal life you are enhancing your professional self. So what are those personal goals? Get them out there, that’s how they gain power. It’s interesting, when we just leave our goals and plans in our head we are less accountable to them, because they don’t exist in the physical sense anywhere. Get them on paper, into your computer, or wherever else makes sense for you, your accountability to yourself just went up!
  5. Actually create a PDP document – Whether you are an employer, an employee, self-employed, or a solo-preneur you need a personal development plan. This isn’t about writing down your goals and putting them away to review next year. This is a living document, it should be prominent in your life, and it shouldn’t just be what you want to accomplish, but how – how are you planning to succeed?

_Success is 20% skills and 80% strategy. You might know how to read, but what's your plan to read._- Jim Rohn

So, dust off the old PDP, update it, tell someone about your plans and let’s all soar together. If we keep looking for ways to improve, and be better versions of ourselves, we can’t help but grow both personally and professionally.

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