Individual Development Plan for Leaders and Managers

Akshit Dangi

Individual Development Plan for Leaders and Managers

As people enter the managerial phase of their professional journey, their growth slows down tremendously. In today’s day and age, this is one of the most worrisome things plaguing workplaces across the globe.

But why does it happen?

One of the main shifts that occur when you enter a managerial role is that, instead of looking at your career path from a macro perspective, you tend to focus solely on one aspect—leadership development. So, while first-time managers work on becoming great leaders for their teams, they may tend to stop working on other aspects of their career path.

This is a problem, as being a manager usually makes up for a major chunk of people’s professional journey. That is why, as the forerunners of your organization, you must ensure that there is an individual development plan in place for your managers that emphasizes on all aspects of your manager’s career development.

If you’re wondering how to create an individual development plan for your organization’s key leaders, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about creating one for leaders and managers.

What is an individual development plan?

Before we get started, it’s important that we’re all level with what an individual development plan is. An individual development plan (IDP) is a comprehensive tool that people usually create with each of their team members to help them utilize their skills effectively and progress on the career path of their choice.

It is an action plan that documents your team member’s strengths, weaknesses, their career aspirations, and the steps required to achieve them. A well-crafted IDP can help your organization increase its rate of retention and its talent pool’s productivity, all while helping create an organizational culture based on trust and collaborative growth.

How can individual development plans enable employee growth

An individual development plan provides actionable steps that are collaboratively identified by a leader and their direct report to help the latter master their skills, acquire new skills as needed, and progress further on their career path. 

Many great managers agree that while giving continuous feedback is a great way to keep track of an individual’s growth, it is only work half done if there isn’t a well-charted plan with proper steps to follow up on. So, in a way, an individual development plan combines the best of a performance review and a talent review into one cohesive and easy-to-follow plan of action.

Along with all this, there are 3 specific ways in which an individual plan enables the growth of your people:

1. Aligns the organization’s goals with career development

One of the biggest advantages of having an individual development plan for your people is that it helps align their training and career development with the overall key results of your organization. That way, your people are able to channel their efforts in the direction that is best for your goals and objectives while progressing further on your career path.

2. Builds rapport with your people

With an IDP in place, you’re well-informed about your people’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses. This results in a closer relationship with each of your team members and allows you to better assess them, which ultimately results in you furthering them on their career path.

3. Brings ownership to each individual

With an IDP, the onus now falls on your manager or team member to duly work on acquiring new skills and enhancing their current ones. This brings a greater level of ownership to their work and lets them take more responsibility for their work and professional growth.

What does an individual development plan typically look like

There are four key elements of every individual development plan:

1. Career aspirations

This includes an individual’s desired future position in their professional journey, i.e., what they want to be and how far they want to go. Career aspirations can also include more micro-level activities such as wanting to pursue a specific project or a key result that they’d like to achieve within their current position.

2. Skills, strengths, and weaknesses

This section of the individual development plan includes a comprehensive list of an individual’s skills, their strengths, and weaknesses. This section is developed through an analysis of their past work and demonstrated behaviors in the workplace—that is also the reason why many tend to include interpersonal and leadership skills here as well.

3. Growth opportunities

These are the identified opportunities that will help an individual progress further in their career path. These opportunities can be anything, from achieving a specific level of output or acquiring skills and applying them in day-to-day activities.

4. Actionable steps

These are specific steps that:

  • the individual can follow to progress further on their career path, and
  • steps that the reporting leader and manager can follow up on to track their team member’s progress.

IDPs for leaders and managers

Now that we have established everything there is to know about an individual development plan, the question remains—how do we make one for our organization’s managers and leaders? Let’s find out.

Challenges managers face in their career development

To reiterate, the main problem that managers, particularly first-time managers, face when progressing through career development is that they tend to focus solely on leadership development, that is, becoming a better leader. This results in them focusing less on skill-development, minimizing their weaknesses, and pursuing projects that they really wish to be a part of.

However, that’s not where things end. An arguable bigger issue comes from how managers are often ill-informed about how to become a better leader as well. This leads to a ton of trial and error that hampers the work of the manager’s team as well.

What happens is that the manager and their team get stuck in a purgatory of sorts where no growth takes place and performance slowly goes down. This is why, it is imperative for an organization’s leaders to work with their managers and develop IDPs to not only help them become better leaders that can actually manage their teams but also assist in their overall professional journey.

With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can develop an IDP for your managers.

1. Schedule a meeting with your manager

Before anything else, your first step should be to determine the kind of person your manager is. To do so, you need to schedule a meeting with your manager and answer the following questions:

  1. Has their career path taken a different turn since they were an individual contributor?
  2. What do their career aspirations now look like?
  3. How do they wish to lead their team?
  4. What is essential for them to learn and improve?
  5. What does your organization need from them in the grand scheme of things?

One of the issues that comes from preparing an IDP for a manager is the lack of talent reviews that are conducted specifically for them. Due to this, you’ll have to rely solely on your discussion with the manager to determine their exact pain points. Try not to rely on your instincts too much, and be thorough in your meeting with the manager.

2. Identify, highlight, and communicate career opportunities

Once you’re through discussing your manager's competencies, the next step is to identify and develop career opportunities that can have them use their current skills effectively, develop new ones, and lead their team efficiently. To that end:

  1. List out the opportunities, goals, and key results that the manager and their team needs to achieve.
  2. Analyze their alignment with the overall goals of the organization. If possible, try to determine their alignment with the development opportunities of the manager’s team as well.
  3. Strategise and develop projects or opportunities that the manager has expressed wishing to pursue.
  4. Create a timeline and make sure to schedule regular catch-ups with your manager to review their progress and course-correct as necessary.

To help ease things out for you, here are some key development goals that every manager should pursue to bring out the best in them:

  1. Conducting meetings effectively
  2. Improving team morale and productivity
  3. Carving out a career path that aligns with their current position
  4. Learning change management techniques
  5. Improving feedback quality
  6. Identify more mentoring opportunities with team members
  7. Pursue development courses and acquire more skills
  8. Developing a strong and positive mindset

3. Identify roadblocks and follow up with 1:1 check-ins

Similar to any other IDP, you need to schedule follow-ups with your manager to identify key problem areas along with all the roadblocks and work together with them to establish solutions that they can take to overcome it all.

When identifying roadblocks and developing solutions for a manager, however, make sure that the solutions do not hamper the development or the work of their team too much. It takes a while to build flow of work, and we don’t want that breaking apart, now do we? But I digress—with all this complete, you’re finally done with working on an IDP for your manager.

The 3 best practices for creating an IDP for managers

Here are the most widely tried-and-tested strategies that ensure that your IDP for managers is truly effective:

Make sure the plan is tied to the manager’s critical competencies

Helping a manager pursue the career path of their choice is a great thing to do, but at this point  in the professional journey, it is important not to forgo their current critical competencies that are crucial for their standing as a manager. Not to mention, these competencies can also make or break the organizational goals. So, ensure that your manager’s career path remains well-aligned with their core competencies.

Focus on behavioral expectations

It’s common to see IDPs focusing solely on skill development and nothing else at all. That shouldn’t be the case, especially for an organization’s managers, as these plans should well-represent the behaviors the organization expects from them.. Including this bit will ensure that your manager’s actions remain aligned with the organization's values and culture.

Always leave room for flexibility

An individual development plan should constantly be evolving and should be flexible enough to account for any changes that happen with the organization or manager’s work. Without this, an IDP wouldn’t be half as effective and would be of no help to the manager in a short amount of time.

Every manager needs a development plan

Managers shouldn’t feel the effects of progressing in their professional journey by having their growth slow down to a crawl. Not only can a well-designed IDP overcome that, but it can also be a great way to track engagement, increase productivity and retention, and maximize your organization’s performance.

And that’s all that matters, isn’t it—you help your people be what they want to be as they help your organization achieve everything in return? With that said, it’s time you sit with your manager to ready up those individual development plans.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.