No, really. It’s as simple as creating the right plan.
If you ever watch top performers at work, whether that’s during a sales meeting or the NBA playoffs, it’s easy to think they were just born to be great.
Some gifts do have a genetic component. But when people excel at what they do, it’s usually because they spent time—months, years or even a lifetime—practicing specific steps that develop skills and experience.
You can make even more progress when you tackle new skills in an organized, systematic way. That’s the whole idea behind professional development plans. They’re a strategic, self-directed way to acquire new skills and sharpen older ones.
“Professional development can help businesses be more competitive by creating an organizational culture that promotes continuous learning,” said Robert Isaacson, a lecturer in educational technology at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
Some of America’s most successful organizations use professional development plans to build up their human talent. But you can use this technique to master new skills in your life as an entrepreneur, too.
How to Create a Professional Development Plan
Assessment and discovery // There is where you figure out exactly what you want to improve. In some cases, that’s pretty clear.
But it might be smart to spend time thinking about your situation, especially if your goal is more general—“to become a better entrepreneur,” for example.
One popular technique: Think about your “pinnacles” and your “foothills.” The pinnacles are your best moments, the times when you feel most energized. Foothills, meanwhile, are the points when you are least satisfied.
Your answers will help you identify what’s working well (so you can build on your strengths) and what’s not (so you can address those weaknesses). Give yourself permission to dream, too. Where would you like to be?
Create a plan of action // Next, you need to write a plan that will lead you to your goal. Be specific.
A good plan should list the specific steps you’ll take to reach those goals.
You also need to list all the resources you will need to carry out your plan. Remember to account for money and time. Can you find a few hours each week to devote to this? How long will the entire plan take—weeks, months, years?
A major goal can demand years of effort, so it’s smart to break it into three- or six-month chunks. That way, you can recalibrate if the plan isn’t working.
And finally, make sure you put your plan in writing. You can find several templates for professional development plans online.
Take action, and take note // For most people, starting won’t be a problem. Keeping it going six months down the line, though, can be trickier.
Using a spreadsheet or a calendar, you can track just how much time you’re devoting to this project. Either you are or you aren’t putting in the necessary hours.
Set a calendar reminder to review your plan once a month. You could ask someone you trust—a spouse, a business coach, another entrepreneur—to periodically check your progress.
The amazing thing about professional development plans is that, once you master the basic technique, you can apply it to just about any facet of your life.
For more information about creating a professional development plan, contact the University of Kansas Edwards Campus at firstname.lastname@example.org or (913) 897-8591.