Deciding on Measures and Target Dates For Your Professional Action Plan

I hope that the previous posts on setting goals and planning the action steps helped you to create two foundational pieces for your written professional development plan, or to coach someone else in creating their plan.

Many great professional development plans get lost and forgotten in the minutia of everyday work life.  It helps to have measures (“metrics” is another term, but may be too exact to be useful in this context) and target dates to achieve the actions – otherwise, what use is planning?


Some of the actions in a professional development plan can have pretty “hard” metrics or measures; but usually, they will be “soft”. If an individual who is being coached is responsible for an organization that can measure increase in sales (for instance), it may well be that using this as a measurement of effectiveness and success would make sense. However, if you consider the kinds of behavioral goals listed in the post on goal setting, you will see that, given the goal examples listed, it would be difficult in most cases to come up with hard numbers to measure. I’m fine with that, and I find that most of the people and organizations I work in understand this.

The most common ways of “measuring” a behavioral change for an individual that I use:

  • Oral feedback obtained from those who work with/for the individual can be obtained and consolidated once the goal is acheived. This can be done by asking targeted questions based on the goals and actions of the individual.  
  • A 360 can be re-administered and the results compared to the original 360 if at least nine months to a full year has passed since the original 360.
  • The effects of the behavioral change can be observed in the individual or in the individual’s team by asking some questions such as: is this individual doing what they said they’d do? Is the team that reports to the individual more effective? Are the employees more engaged and responsive? Are deadlines being met that weren’t met previously?

Target Dates

Each action needs a target date. If new behaviors are being “tried on”, the target date might be a range from the date the behavior is first tried to the final date that it becomes a habit. I find it surprising that my clients can articulate well when they think a new way of communicating or interacting becomes “habit”. They seem to know, intrinsically, when they no longer have to think so hard about doing something differently.

I encourage you, and those you coach, to make the target dates reasonable, yet challenging. High achievers enjoy the challenge of a target date that is a bit of a stretch.

Next: I’ll do my best to defy the will of WordPress technology and upload an example of an action plan (if any of my clients are reading this, not to worry – it won’t be yours!). Wish me luck.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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