Every organisation I have worked for – or with – wants people its people to learn, develop and grow. Most organisations try to encourage that growth through an Individual Development Plan (IDP) or equivalent…encouragement that frequently involves goals for percentage completion of IDPs being set across the organisation.
Many organisation goals of this sort involve cascade communication. Leaders requesting – or requiring – that everyone in their teams complete an IDP on time. I have been there and I have done that. The intent is always positive and good. The impact is not always so, and neither is the outcome. Boxes can be checked and documents submitted, but conversations tend to be one sided, value is not always high and follow up non-existent.
This last week I had my own team with me on Site in the UK. We worked together on a range of topics…and one of them was people growth and IDPs. I heard many great stories of how my team facilitated and encouraged quality IDPs in their own teams. I felt good and proud, but I also felt concerned. It seemed inevitable that we were heading towards a classical cascade approach to increasing quality and quantity of IDPs.
And then it happened…that moment when a passionate and engaged member of the team helped us see in a totally different way. A best friend at work explained how much he wanted to complete his own IDP after hearing another colleague’s story of the benefit they obtained from their own IDP. It was that simple and that insightful.
Goals and metrics…techniques and training… have a role to play…but there’s nothing quite like a personal testimony – the story of one person’s experience – to influence how I think and how I feel. At that moment in our discussion we stopped telling stories of IDPs we have facilitated…and instead we started to tell each other our own stories from our own IDPs…our own experiences, feelings and benefits.
I felt like hugging the team who had enabled the realisation and observation. I felt energised…enthused…excited! We had a different way forward. I even learned a new concept – inverse marketing (yes it has a name). And more importantly I knew at that very moment that I wanted to arrange my own 2016 IDP.
My best ever IDP discussion happened around eight years ago. I had just learned that my role at that time was likely to be eliminated. My then boss suggested we meet and talk about my development, options and career aspirations.
I remember being sceptical going in, but feeling reassured immediately. My boss knew me, and had thought about me. He had read – and thought about – what I had written in my Individual Development Plan. He listened. He reflected. He asked. He made me feel good – about myself and what I was doing. I left that IDP discussion with what sounded like simple learning…but learning that had significant impact for me.
Don’t focus on trying to reach a specific role – organisations change and roles inevitably disappear or appear – concentrate on what you enjoy, what you are good at and what you want to do more of. Get better at that…and everything else will take care of itself.
Sure enough, my role was eliminated – as were many others – but a new opportunity did appear. Very different in content, but a role that did allow me to do what I enjoyed and definitely played to my strengths.
Looking back, I realised that IDP was not just an exercise. And it is not even just a moment. It is a memory and it is now a story.