Does the picture of the ‘PDP action plan’ resonate with you? It might just be a bit of fun, however, I wonder how close this is to reality in many organisations. Imagine the wasted hours of employee and manager going through the motions of creating something of little value and with no desire of putting it into action.

We all know that if the world’s greatest gardener leaves their perfectly manicured garden unattended, weeds will grow.  That is obvious.  This applies equally to ourselves and our personal development.  If we neglect ourselves, our own version of ‘weeds’ start to grow and our performance begins to suffer.  Here are 4 ways of ensuring that doesn’t happen in your organisation.


1. Make it personal

I think some managers lose sight of the first ‘p’ in a PDP conversation.  It becomes a conversation exclusively about hitting targets or where they might be off track.  It is called a Personal Development Plan for a reason.  Start with the things they want, dream about or aspire to create.  Then move on to the present moment.  Make it clear that being great at your current job is a conduit to achieving your future aspirations.  A phrase I remember a past colleague always used was ‘this current role is your practice field for the next phase in your career’.


2. Make it a priority

“We are behind target so can we skip our 1to1 this month?”

“An important meeting has been arranged so can we reschedule your PDP meeting?”

Every member of your team should be certain that there is nothing more important to you than helping them achieve everything they hope for.  Your job is to serve them first.

If you truly believed an individual committed to their development was likely to achieve more, then you would be crazy to postpone a conversation about their PDP, right?


3. Make it their choice

One of the bravest and most impactful strategies I implemented around personal development in an organisation was in making everyone’s PDP optional.  I made it ‘OK’ for individuals to choose not to have a PDP.  People just needed to confirm in writing that this was their decision.

My message was two-fold.  Firstly, if a person was not yet interested in their development but were hitting target and performing to requirements then I would be ‘OK’ with their choice.  Secondly, if they went on to miss their target they would also have to stand by their choice not to invest in themselves (and their manager would create a performance improvement plan for them).

I believe people are more likely to resist something they feel is imposed on them and behave differently when the choice is placed in their own hands.  People understood and appreciated this message.  More people took up the option of a PDP conversation with their manager.


4. Make them go second

In the words of Jim Kouzes, “The Model we set by our actions is far more important than anything we say”.

I appreciate there is a tricky balance for committed leaders here.  If we are a leader whose primary aim is to serve those in our charge, then maybe it is ok to neglect our own development in order to focus on our team.   I see many dedicated leaders do this.  However, we risk sending out an underlying message that we don’t really buy-in to the positive impact of a growth mindset.

How can we expect anyone to make something important if we don’t first do the same?  Unless you have a story about how important your own PDP is to you, and the results you enjoyed, do not expect anyone in your team to have one.



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