Even the most foolproof recipes benefit from having the right ingredients, in the proper ratio, sourced and harvested within a sustainable environment.
The same patience and thoughtful consideration will influence our search for meaningful personal development activities.
One of the more challenging aspects of structuring an impactful Personal Development Plan (PDP) is the creation of Personal Goals . . . as compared to Business Goals and Objectives:
Business Goals are the result of invested effort.
Personal Goals are the effort you invest to enhance your ability to achieve a Business Goal.
Embracing both the separation and intuitive connection between these two requires pushing numbers and percentages aside for a moment. This is the behind-the-scenes investment and sacrifice that takes natural ability and pushes it to a new performance level.
“Just getting better” is a fitting mantra for reminding you what’s at stake.
A Shifting Landscape
Lodging Operations had expanded exponentially, almost doubling the inventory of hotels to 4,000 over a ten-year span. Technology, travel, trends, traditions . . . the landscape was shifting, permanently.
The organization’s history was steeped in promotions from within, the product of a culture focused on growth and development. This legacy was vulnerable amidst rapid expansion.
Was there enough internal talent capable of keeping pace with the demands of a changing society and leading into the Next Generation?
In response, leaders were encouraged to identify Performance Competencies they intended to improve. Building a Personal Development Plan (PDP) became a recommended exercise within the Annual Performance Review process.
After two years of minimal impact, generating and executing a robust PDP became a requirement for every leader in the organization. Results continued to lag expectations, even with increased accountability.
Something had to be done.
Role Model Behavior
As usual, my first step was to go back in time.
Two years earlier I had found a paperback copy of the Founder’s biography while clearing the storage room of a local HR office. Published in 1977, it was like discovering a priceless family heirloom, lost for decades in the attic or basement.
There is a chapter in which the Founder described his personal investment in overcoming a professional challenge. It was the mid-1950s, and the company was expanding in new and diverse directions.
An avid reader, he was fond of perusing numerous newspapers, periodicals, and books to stay in stride with trends and industry developments. There were also daily corporate reports to review. Plus, being a person of faith, he sought solace by reading his Bible each day.
He became increasingly frustrated with the lack of time available for reading, the consequence of a blossoming national presence.
Attending a reception one evening, he was introduced to Evelyn Wood, a speed reading expert who had developed a technique in which people could learn to read faster, sometimes over 1000 words a minute.
This was the solution he had been longing for. With the ability to read faster, he could learn more efficiently and lead the company more effectively. Professor Wood was hired on the spot to come to his office each day and teach him her method.
Almost six decades later, this story would be used to role model the investment expected from individual leaders. Afterall, our Founder committed to learning how to read faster to increase personal efficiency, becoming more productive and effective as a result.
What are you willing to do?
Making It Personal
Before you make it a goal, be sure to make it personal.
This begins with generating a powerful Development Objective, one that:
- speaks intuitively of the “why” behind “what” you intend to learn, develop, strengthen, improve, enhance, increase, grow, etc.
- remains predictive, identifying learning behaviors impacted without specifying performance results or scores, i.e., customer satisfaction, sales quotas, engagement or financial results, visitors, or patients.
- references numerical applications to program or process completion only
For example, phrasing our Founder’s commitment as a Development Objective would sound something like:
“Increase personal productivity and efficiency by hiring speed reading expert Evelyn Wood to come to my office at 8:00am several days a week and teach me to read at least 1000 words per minute”
This is hypothetical, built after knowing the effort invested and tracing resulting impact on performance.
But isn’t that the purpose of goal setting exercises?
Set the intention, then build in actions and behaviors that align with achieving expected results.
Business or Personal?
While simplicity is a good rule of thumb for creating your Development Objective, it may take practice to organize words that portray personal intention:
Tall Tim PDP Quiz #1 – Business or Personal?
“Strengthen my ability to give verbal presentations so meetings are more effective, and Department Goals can be better articulated”
This is the Development Objective of an Executive Chef, who was concerned that his delivery within a group setting was lacking overall impact needed to inspire his team.
Great use of learning words (strengthen, more, better) to communicate intuitive intent, supporting the reason why development activities should target this growth area.
Tall Tim PDP Quiz #2 – Business or Personal?
“Plan a Sales Familiarization Trip to my market with Potential Clients so that I may better understand their expectations and achieve 100% of my Sales Goal”
While we can identify one learning word (better), it is not enough to overcome the dominating presence of business intent: planning a sales fam trip, meetings with clients, achieve a Sales Goal.
A Development Objective cannot simply describe your routine operational commitments. Remember, it is your investment in behaviors and technique that predict improved performance.
Tall Tim PDP Quiz #3: Business or Personal?
“Improve awareness around the expectations of Market Clients by expanding my knowledge of local area culture and history”
People have asked “Tall Tim, what gives? Those two sound exactly the same.”
This highlights the importance of phrasing your Development Objective properly. If you were to read this statement first, you would identify impactful learning words (improve, awareness, expanding) used in a manner that describes insightful behavior.
Although there is mention of Market Clients, there are no references to goals or completion percentages. The intent remains predictive, describing specifics such as local area culture and history.
Tall Tim PDP Quiz #4: Business or Personal?
“Identifies issues, problems, and opportunities. Develops alternatives to resolve the problem or issue. Decides on course of action to resolve problem”
The use of learning words (identify, develop) is misleading in this Development Objective. They do not imply behavior or describe an impact on personal knowledge.
This was a leader who hit copy then paste from a Job Description to complete their PDP. No effort, no results.
Answer: Bad Business
One Final Gem
She cautioned me with her opening statement: “I don’t know if this is going to qualify as my Personal Development Plan.”
The dominant cultural background of her team was Hispanic. While a majority spoke English as their second language, many didn’t speak English at all. This also defined the talent pool in her community, where potential employees were recruited via personal reference.
This leader did not speak Spanish. Although guest satisfaction and employee engagement were satisfactory, both could be improved by embracing a common language.
Her Development Objective was succinct and to the point:
“Learn to speak Spanish to better communicate with hourly employees in my department”
When I read this, it gave me chills.
She had brilliantly summarized a personal commitment to improve a soft skill capable of delivering hard results. Anyone on the planet could see the direction of intent and appreciate the value in her personal growth.
Later that year, she facilitated a department meeting in Spanish. It wasn’t perfect . . . but it didn’t need to be.
It was the right recipe, with the right ingredients, sourced within a sustainable environment. Everything you would hope for in a great Development Objective, encased within a very Personal Development Plan.
Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!