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Development Plans - Understanding the Individual

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By Stuart Hannibal

This week I'm starting a series on how to create a development plan - whether for yourself or someone you are guiding. The first part of the series covers what is arguably the most important piece of any plan, whether it is your own or you are helping someone build theirs; understanding the individual. It sets the stage by giving guidance on understanding where you are and enables you to pull together a plan that is specific to your motivations, circumstances and tendencies at a specific point in time. Writing them down will provide the context to which objectives are developed and give context when you come back to think about progress made in future periods.

So what should you capture? My recommendation, at a minimum, is to write down: 1) Where you are aiming to go, 2) What constraints you may have, and 3) pick your favorite 'understanding yourself' tool (Myers-Briggs, DISC, Strengths Finder, etc.) to capture potential tendencies that you may have. These are not here as a recipe, they are there to prompt thoughts.

Where you are aiming to go. You can use multiple time periods as you think about this, but I like to look 5-10 years out as it is feels more tangible, but you can also think about your career as a whole or what you want your last job to be…the concept here is to build a picture of what you want to be doing at the end of that time period. You may be able to find inspiration in roles that you see others doing, you may have a hobby that you would like to incorporate or a particular academic subject that you are drawn to. Write down the top 3 items that come to mind.

What constraints you may have. I usually find this to be the easiest to do as most individuals have told themselves that they can't do X because of Y. It could be not wanting to move to a low paying location because you need to pay off student loans, flexible hours to enable external commitments, etc. Write down the top 3 items. The value to writing this down is not that it actually has to stop you doing something, but that you need to find a pathway that works with that constraint and doesn't add tension to it!

Understanding yourself tool. If you work in a corporate setting or took business school classes at University, odds are that you have undertaken at least one activity that aims to have you understand yourself. As part of the output you usually receive a set of strengths and areas to be aware of and at least some of what is said will resonate with you. It's these strengths and areas to be aware of that you'll leverage in thinking through how to achieve where you are aiming to go and staying within the constraints you have set yourself.

Thinking through these areas will give you a grounding of where to focus your long term development objectives. I'd recommend sharing this with a trusted adviser so that they are aware of your thinking and potentially challenge you on whether you have captured the correct items. And remember, this should be part of a living document, it will need to change over time as you do, so come back to it on a regular basis and check to see if what you wrote down still holds true.
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