Learning to Lead from the Inside Out: Individual Development Plan

It is 2023, and professional and self-development have become the norm and the expectation.You will be left behind if you do not learn or care to improve yourself.Dr. Z goes over explains what an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is and how you can use it to your advantage to bring the most out of yourself and those you work with.

Learning to Lead from the Inside Out: Individual Development Plan

Let’s face it – you must have a plan to move up the ladder of success. Gone are the days when organizations cared for their employees’ developmental needs and provided them with a clear and actionable career ladder. It is 2023, and self-development and professional development have become the norm and the expectation.You will be left behind if you do not learn or care to improve yourself.

As leaders and managers, developing employee talent is paramount to organizational growth and providing a competitive advantage for your organization. The last thing you want is a bunch of employees sitting around and accepting the status quo. The business environment is changing, and so must your employees by learning new skills, processes, and innovative techniques.

A tool that I have found that works very well, as a leader in corporate America and as a consultant, for both managers that want to develop a talent development program and leadership program and for those employees who wish to develop themselves and have a record of it, is called an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP tool has been used previously but is under-utilized in my research and experience.

How does an IDP work?

Let me tackle this question from the angle of a manager.

A manager should have multiple meeting times throughout the year to address and update an employee’s IDP. This tends to be an annual event and is just a check of a box for HR. That is such a disservice. The employee is responsible for the items listed on the IDP, such as goals for the next quarter, personal development initiatives, performance targets, etc.An employee’s goal statementis the most important component. The employee goal statement defines where the employee wants to go within the organization or even in their career. The goals need to bemeasurableand specific within a certain time frame. Yes, SMART goals would be a great option here. The manager’s job is to help stir their employees in the right direction, help them develop the needed skills for that next promotion, and be accountable partners.

For example, during my tenure as a manager, I used IDPs for my team of academics. One of my employees, a top performer, wanted to learn project management and be certified as a green belt. His job was as an academic advisor, so there needed to be more opportunities to gain the necessary experience for green belt certification. Working with leadership, I got him on some cross-departmental task forces that allowed him to gain the needed experience for green belt certification. If we did not do an IDP, I would not have known about his goal of green belt certification, and he would not have been able to use his talents to benefit the organization through his experience in the task force. This would be considered a lost opportunity.

Key Takeaways

Employees, if your organization does not offer IDPs, ask your manager or leader to sit down with you to draft some goals. No one is going to do it for you. Leaders, be open to your employees wanting to set goals and learn. Take the time to work with your employees. There is no negative return on this investment.

Here is a great website that provides a more detailed discussion of an IDP:

Dr. Daniel Zimmerman is the Dean of the School of Business and Technology at Aspen University. He is also an external consultant and international professor of management and organizational development. He resides in Illinois with his wife, three boys, and three cats. Dr. Zimmerman can be reached at daniel.zimmerman@aspen.edu.

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