What’s your personal development journey?

Working with a senior leader recently we started to think about personal impact. Was she completing her role to the best of her ability? How could she measure her impact? How did she know she was making a difference? This led to a cursory discussion about the usual metrics – 360 degree review, appraisal, etc., but she was particularly interested in having a way to look differently at her own personal development. That got me thinking….

We hear the phrase ‘personal development’ in many areas of our lives nowadays and it is such a useful phrase that it can be adapted to many scenarios. My own personal development might now be an on-line podcast or live or interactive webinar about bee-keeping or from a well-loved author; but it could easily be an aspect of something that relates to improving my interpersonal skills or being a little bit more mindful.

Thankfully personal development is a lifelong process. It is a way for us to review our skills and qualities, consider our aims in life and set goals in order to realise and maximise our potential at one end of the scale and perhaps to just experience joy and fun at the other!

A popular model for describing and discovering personal development is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need which suggests that all individuals have an in-built need for personal development which occurs through a process called self-actualisation. As a manager, if you can see the potential of your own team, it’s a great way to help them see their own potential too – or, in Maslow’s terms, their self-actualisation. This isn’t always easy, on either side of course and takes time, dedication and strategy to establish the correct results. The best way to ascertain reaching self-actualisation is to create a personal development plan – a kind of business plan for yourself.

To begin, define the goals that are really important to you. Whether the goals are career-related or focus on something that will enrich or improve your personal life (starting a new hobby/activity or learning a new language perhaps), it is vital to understand that only you can determine what your goals are – it’s a personal plan so don’t let anyone else plan for you!

Secondly, just like a business plan, set deadlines. “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” Be realistic with your timeline and review on a regular basis to ensure you’re on track and progressing at the right pace.

As managers and leaders, we know there can be skills gaps in many of our roles – but which skills or knowledge will help you to achieve your goals? Until you know where the gaps are (in skills and knowledge), you can’t fill the gap.

Once you’re confident that you’ve planned, it’s time to take action. The chances are every goal you have identified will require several actions to achieve it, which can be a bit daunting. It’s helpful to list the 3 most important actions to help keep you focused. Just make sure you read and pay attention to the list to make it all happen!

We all know that completing a task isn’t the end of it. We have to monitor, progress and improve as we go. There will be times when things seem to be going well and your progress is clear to see. It’s important to recognise this to help you stay motivated. On the flip side, there will be times when progress appears to be slow or worse still non-existent. An important part of the measurement stage in your plan is to make lists of both things that are working well and can be seen as accomplishments as well as areas for improvement and things you need to change and do differently.

Finally, the thing lots of us aren’t so good at is the realization that we can’t do this alone – we need to get support. Identify who can help you with specific goals. If one of your goals is to undertake work experience in a new industry, take a look at your network of contacts: you may already know somebody working in that industry who can help you. As part of your personal development plan, make a list of organisations and individuals who can provide support for specific goals.  Be brave – ask someone you admire in a particular area to mentor you or to be there for the odd email now and then providing support and encouragement in a particular direction. Fortune favours the brave they say, and fortune can so easily refer to the richness of our lives, not just the bank balance! Indeed, I would say that the former is more rewarding and leads to greater happiness.

So, some simple steps to create and recreate your own personal development plan that can be used at work or at home. Just remember though, there is very little point putting a personal development plan in place if you are not going to use it! Try dedicating 5 to 10 quiet minutes at the end of every day to look at your plan and we have no doubt it will serve you well. Why not share that plan with someone else and enable them to help keep you to account. Happy planning!

Rachel Mallows MBE
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Rachel Mallows MBE

Rachel Mallows MBE is a Northamptonshire businesswoman with over 30 years' experience in delivering training, coaching, mentoring and business support. Rachel is the founder and Managing Director of The Mallows Company Limited, a Bozeat based business with a regional remit, providing careers guidance to adults and in schools; training, mentoring, project management and consultancy to SMEs and larger businesses of all sectors. Rachel was awarded the MBE for her services to Business and Entrepreneurship in the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016 and was made a Deputy Lieutenant for Northamptonshire in the same year.