Your Professional Development Action Plan: Planning the Action Steps


Last week’s post on action planning was about how to set a professional development goal for you or to coach others in this.

Once a goal is set, action steps to meet the goal must be considered and captured on the plan. Most people like that part, but often find it difficult, particularly when the goals are about such things as “executive presence” or communication. After all, these are things that the individual may have needed to work on for a long time, they just haven’t known how. Also, at times the actions will be out of their comfort zones (such as an introverted leader who needs to get out and be around staff more; or an extraverted leader who needs to learn to listen to staff more).

Figuring out the action steps

The written action plan should have a spot to capture each of the action steps that will be taken. The form should also have a place to capture measures for each action step as well as target dates (next post will speak to these items). The action steps must be allowed to change as time goes on – some may work well on the first try, others will need to be adjusted as learning occurs into what does or does not work for the individual.

I also encourage you to break the action steps down into relatively small parts; this makes them less overwhelming and allows you or the person you are coaching to be able to set target dates for even the smallest of activities. Thus, accountability for each action becomes greater and the small victories are obtained quickly.

Questions to help plan the action steps

For each goal, there may be many action steps that can be taken. The kind of questions to consider when planning the action include:

  • What education or training will I need to achieve this goal?
  • What kind of experiences might I need either at work or outside of work?
  • Who can help me? What will I ask of them?
  • What has worked for me in the past?
  • What have I seen others do that might work for me?
  • What am I willing to try?

If we take the example of the goal of “learn productive ways to deal with conflict”, an example of some of the actions steps might be:

  • Take Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)
  • Learn the different styles outlined in the TKI report and reading material.
  • Try using new ways of dealing with conflicts with my team and peers in situations that seem appropriate; ask for feedback from trusted individuals.
  • Reflect on and journal where I’ve used a conflict style that is not productive, and consider where I might use another that is more effective the next time.
  • Discuss successes and failures with the different styles with my manager/coach. Adjust to styles that work best for me and the situations at hand.
  • Continue to practice until comfort level in using appropriate conflict styles is achieved.

The keys to planning and doing the action is fluidity and forgiveness. Remember, the actions are new to you or the person you are coaching. You may have been doing something one way (that is no longer working for you) for many years. Forgive yourself or the person you are coaching when slippage or errors occur, and adjust the action as necessary to something that will work. And remember to celebrate the successes!

Next: Action plan measures and target dates.


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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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