Monday, July 22, 2013

Leadership Development as a 5 Year Journey

A proven best practice to improve as a leader is to create and follow-through on an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP usually defines what you want to get better at and why and how you’re going to get better.
Studies on goal attainment prove over that over that people with written, specific plans are more likely to achieve their goals.

Most IDPs are written for a one-year time horizon, sometimes even less. I’m wondering if that one-year default time-period needs to be challenged.
If you were to go to a bank or venture capitalist and ask for funding to start your new business, they would never accept a one-year business plan.

When you work with a financial planner, you work with 5, 10, even 30 year time horizons.
Important, complex, and challenging goals like starting a business, retirement, or becoming a great leader are rarely achieved in a year.

So what would a five-year leadership Individual Development Plan look like? Honestly, I’ve never written one – but if I had to come up with the ideal plan, it could look something like the one below. I’ve included approximate costs when appropriate. That way, you can get your request in before budgets are developed and finalized (or start saving your own money).
Keep in mind, every individual is unique, and this is in no way meant to be prescriptive. It’s only an example, but includes what I’d consider to be proven best practices for leadership development.

5 Year Leadership Development Plan:



Vision statements can be written for where you want to be financially, with your career, your family, your business, or any aspect of your life. To quote Steven Covey, you’re starting with the end in mind.  In this case, imagine where you want to be as a leader in five years.
Example: “In five years, I want to be seen as a role model leader by my peers. I’d like to be in a position in my organization where I can have a have a greater impact on the organization and those around me. I want to have made a significant difference in the lives of those I’ve led.”

Year one: establish a baseline
Let’s first establish a baseline by first learning about leadership and assessing your current level of competency:
- Read 2-3 books about leadership and/or leaders that I admire (or equivalent reading though blogs, newsletters, etc…)

- Start a journal and make notes of the qualities of great leaders that I want to emulate
- Interview 2-3 leaders that I admire to learn more about what makes them tick and how they got to where they are.

- Take a 360 leadership assessment. In addition to the 360, have someone that is certified in the assessment review the results with me. Cost for the assessment: $100 to $300.Cost for the review: about $2500 - $3000, unless your organization has internal experts
Year two: get a coach and establish specific goals

Now that you have a good idea of what leadership looks like and where you stand against the target, it’s time to identify some specific goals for the next 4 years.
- Work with my manager and an executive coach to help me identify leadership development goals that are aligned with business goals.

- Monthly sessions with my executive coach for the next 12 months. Approximate cost: $8,000 - $12,000. Less for an internal coach or an “apprentice” coach (someone working on their coaching certification that may work with you pro bono).
- Read 2 more books or equivalent  and interview two more role models, this time targeting the specific goals I’m trying to achieve (i.e., “improve my ability to lead  transformational change”)

- identify either a change in jobs or a significant challenging assignment that will give me an opportunity to learn and apply the leadership skills I am hoping to improve
- Continue to journal

Year three: trail by fire
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the most effective way to improve as leaders is though job changes and challenging assignments. So it’s now time to:

- Move to a new job or start working on my challenging assignment
- Identify 2-3 experts that can help me be successful in my new role or assignment and meet with each on a monthly basis

- Check in with my coach 3-4 times throughout the year
- Read one book or equivalent that will provide specific “how-tos” for my new role or assignment

- Continue to reflect and journal
Year four: back to school
This one may be misplaced and should start sooner, but for the sake of a five year plan, let’s put it in here. Also, some comprehensive programs include assessments and coaching, so you may be able to combine them.

- Attend a leadership/executive development program. Cost: $2000 - $10,000.
- Continue in new role, or new challenging assignment

- One book or equivalent
- Regular check-ins with support network (boss, coach, others)

Year five:
- Move into new role that is aligned with my vision

- Take another 360 degree assessment to obtain another snapshot of how others now perceive me as a leader
- Identify 1-2 individuals to mentor on leadership

- Write my own leadership book, blog, or guest post based on my five year journal
On one hand, you could argue that five years is way too long to do all of these things. Why not do it all in a year? That’s the way most plans are written, and that may be why most plans never come close to being completed.

Some may take issue with the costs. Yes, things like executive coaching and executive development programs are expensive, and possibly beyond the means of many. While I understand, and there are less expensive options, you generally get what you pay for. It’s an investment, and progressive organizations are willing to make these kinds of investments. After all, Organizations with the highest quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition.
What do you think? Would a five year approach to leadership development planning work for you?


Raghuram said...

Good one, liked the idea of you relating IDP to financial planning. Very valid. We normally think of the next year or two and not long term.

Dan McCarthy said...


Ryan Briggs said...

I really liked the article. I was recently asked to put a IDP together by my boss. I like your example; it is different than the way I would have done it. I will incorporate elements of what you've got. I admit that I've accomplished much of what I planned and now I'm in a rut, it's good to look for a new vision.

James Strock said...

Very good post. 5 year plan is terrific idea. Thanks for sharing.

Dan McCarthy said...

Ryan -
Thanks, glad you liked it, and good luck with the new vision!

James -
Thanks for your comment, and you're welcome.