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Do you have to create yearly Personal Development Plans (PDPs) for yourself and your team? Do you find the process tiring and not generating much value?

Again and again I see how PDPs become meaningless documents. They are done at the beginning of the year, reviewed at the end and not much happens with them in between. But the problem with the PDP process is not just the lack of focus on it during the year.

The problem is that the element that can generate real change is nowhere to be found in the PDP process.

Usually PDPs comprise of an outline of the goals or KPIs the person is to reach in that year. Followed by an outline of the actions they will take to get to those results. And then a list of new behaviours the individual need to adapt to make this all happen.

In recent times a lot of PDPs even split the actions and behaviours into 70/20/10. Individuals bullet-point how 70% of the learning will come from on-the-job learning, 20% will come from learning from others and 10% from courses, books etc. Thie 70/20/10 principle helps the person at least thinks a little about how to gain the learning. But it still doesn’t address the most important point needed for growth and development.

If your want  your PDP process to support genuine development of people, for your employees to grow as leaders, then you have to look at what mindset and beliefs people need to upgrade to grow to the next level.

Real change doesn’t come from a training course or from being taught a new behaviour. If so the quick-fixes we spend money on would actually create lasting results. Every person attending a sales course would improve their sales and all those reading books on assertiveness would actually become assertive. We know that is not the case and still we hope… Because we are reluctant to look at the real work underlying all change: Fears, mindset, beliefs. That kind of work takes courage.

But if you are committed to making the PDP process more inspiring and useful both for you, your team and your organisation, look at what inner upgrade each person needs to make to get to the desired results and behaviours. What do they need to think differently? What beliefs do they need to shift? What fears do they need to face?

Some of these will be very personal and some of these more general. E.g. my client Brian came to me after having been turned down for a promotion. He was devastated because he had been told that he might not be “suitable” for the next level up. Quickly, we uncovered the fact that he had a belief that a promotion would mean less time with his family. And since his value is that family is more important than anything, he had unsconsciously not been shining at work, because a part of him really didn’t want more responsbility. In his (unconscious) mind a promotion at work meant a deterioration of life at home.

So what happened to Brian? After a few coaching sessions Brian saw how he could achieve more at work without it meaning less time with his wife and children. He became more proactive and was recently told that he is now the favoured candidate for the next promotion opportunity.

Exercise: How to add the Inner Upgrade piece to yours and your team’s PDPs

As a leader, it is important to do the inner upgrade work on your own PDP first. Then help your team with it. Only if you have truly gone through the process yourself, will you be able to help others do it.

1. Start with the “normal” elements of the PDP. Choose one result and behaviour to work on at a time. Then ask yourself: what might I be thinking that could get in the way of me following through on this behaviour and action?

E.g. My client Alysa wanted her leadership peers to take her opinions on-board more and be considered for a top leadership position. The behaviour she had outlined was to speak up more in meetings. But it also turned out that in meetings she thought that people who spoke a lot in meetings were annoying and hugging the airtime. And she definitely didn’t want to be one of those people. So her unconscious thinking pattern was holding her back from her desired behaviour.

2. Once you have identified a few of the key thoughts that are in the way of you following through on the new behaviours, ask yourself – what could I think instead, that would be more helpful?

Alysa decided to chose a new thinking pattern: “Unless I speak up, others will not hear my point of you. People that use the airtime available have more possibility to influence the status quo.”

She wrote these words down and looked at them daily particularly before meetings.

3. Add the new thinking pattern to your PDP and refer to it often. See if you feel ready to adopt it or if you need some support to get there.

If you want to go through this process in more depth with some coaching support, please get in touch at noomi@noominatan.com

What is the best tip you have for making a PDP useful?

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