• April 2011

This Development Plan Will Help You Rock Your Business — and Your Life

By Dr. Alice Waagen
President & Founder
Workforce Learning

When it comes to finding ways to rock my business, I am pretty old-fashioned. In my work life, and my personal life as well, I am a huge proponent of strategically planning personal development.

Here’s why: More than just attending a sporadic conference or seminar, I regularly spend time thinking about what I want, how I want to get there, and what I might need to avoid. With this clear and succinct development plan in mind, I can be calmer, more patient, and am always more successful in accomplishing my goals.

Consider Caroline Lucas (pictured right). As the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and a Member of the European Parliament for the South East England region, Lucas is one of two Green MEPs from the UK—a post she has held since 1999.

Noted for campaigning and writing on green economics, localization, alternatives to globalization, trade justice, animal welfare, and food, she is a personal hero of mine. In fact, in her time as a politician and activist, she has worked with numerous NGOs and think-tanks, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Oxfam, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

So when I think about being powerful, I reflect on her accomplishments and hunker down to find new ways to make my own business grow. To do that, I come up with a list of development goals.

1. Ask yourself: What are your development plans for 2011 and beyond?

Each quarter, I create a list of goals for the next three months. It usually takes me a week, and I refer back to the list regularly. Write them down. Then make a second list for what you want to accomplish in then next six months, and for the entire year. Now step back and objectively look at the list. Do you have the knowledge and skills to achieve it? If not, write a development goal that will get you what you need.

Why? Because the link between the goal and your business should be strong and clear. When tempted to focus on work and ignore development, the business impact of not completing your development activities will become abundantly clear.

2. Identify all of the tasks and activities that you will schedule and attend to address your goals.

Don’t limit your learning to the standard classes and seminars. Try to build a plan that involves active learning like forming a mentor relationship with someone whom you feel is an expert in your learning area. Or, look for volunteer work that lets you try “dry running” skill sets. Free or low-cost webinars are prolific these days.
Many of these will come with reference lists and tips for increasing your learning. Be creative, and try to come up with at least three tasks or activities per quarter to help you grow and learn.

3. Find a learning coach. This person need not be a professional coach. He or she can simply be a supportive colleague or friend who will meet with you regularly, listen to your goals, and keep you accountable and on track.

I have a small group of “development buddies.” We meet every four to six weeks to report progress on our learning and to challenge each other to stay on track. Some of my best overall learning comes from my development-buddy group because I not only share my accomplishments but learn from their successes.

4. Begin your development planning exercise by answering this question. What did I learn last year that had a positive effect on my ability to meet my business goals?

Use the answer to this question as the springboard for your new development plan. If you are struggling to come up with an answer, you simply need to get to work planning what you need to do to support your business goals.

Questions? Send me an email at alice@workforcelearning.com.

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