One of the most valuable activities we’ve completed so far in EML is the Professional Development Plan (PDP). This spring, on a Saturday morning, we gathered as a cohort to talk through just what a PDP is and how to get started. Several members asked: How will I apply this to my leadership path? and How can a PDP help at this stage in my career? As a leadership coach, having found that writing goals makes them infinitely more attainable, I was intrigued.
The Professional Development Plan
The PDP is a valuable tool for advancement, often provided in coaching engagements, that gives professionals a systematic approach toward future goals and plans. A “professional roadmap,” this tool guides leaders through visualizing the “sweet spot” intersection between their strengths, skills, interests, and leadership paths.
Early in my career at a Silicon Valley public relations firm, I was introduced to the SWOT analysis, a four-quadrant chart designed to outline organizations’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Much like the PDP we just crafted in EML, we weighed input from tech leaders, their clients, and industry experts to craft SWOTs that guided organizations toward success, exploring critical topics like: Where are we now? Where do we most want to be? and How do we occupy the most ideal space in consumers’ minds?
SWOT Analysis for Defining Leadership Paths
Later, when guiding clients through advancing on their leadership paths, I drew from my background in positioning to create individual SWOTs for each. We tackled challenging topics like: What are your strengths as you and others perceive them? How about perceived weaknesses? What are your opportunities (or fit with your desired organization)? and How about your greatest threats (what the competition brings but you do not)? We arrived at success strategies and action plans to close the gap between who they were and who they most wanted to become.
Crafting a PDP in EML was remarkably similar. Working one-on-one with partners, we started with extensive assessments, exploring our accomplishments, the qualities that led us to successful outcomes, and unique leadership traits. We defined the greater purpose that drives who we are and what we do, and called on mentors who shared insightful perspectives while pointing out blind spots.
"We defined the greater purpose that drives who we are and what we do, and called on mentors who shared insightful perspectives while pointing out blind spots."
This activity led to important discoveries for each of us in the cohort. Since we represent a broad range of backgrounds, industries, and personality types, responses were diverse and fascinating. With the messages that came out of this assessment, we then crafted PDPs, modeled after a tool created by Barrett Values Centre, defining the most critical points in four specific quadrants.
In the first quadrant, alignment, we outlined strengths and development areas “known to ourselves and others.” In the second, we defined blindspots “known to others but not ourselves.” In the third quadrant, we addressed unrealized potential, “what others might not see, feel or know.” In the fourth quadrant, we covered development priorities “not known to ourselves or others.” From these results, we then defined SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) Goals to create positive impacts on each of our leadership paths.
"I found the PDP a powerful tool not only for coaching clients but also for self-reflection, articulating worth, and actualizing potential as I advance on my leadership path."
Though I have coached many leaders through developing success strategies, it was eye-opening to craft my own roadmap for professional development. My most immediate plans include: connecting with larger networks of potential clients, launching an interview series with leaders I admire, and establishing platforms for online exposure.
A living document, the PDP represents a powerful vehicle that sends us on a series of discoveries, both professional and personal. Once we arrive at these discoveries and set our commitments in writing, we create life-changing paths toward actualization.
Like many valuable elements of this transformative leadership program, the PDP is a foundational element of EML I was not expecting. I found the PDP a powerful tool not only for coaching clients but also for self-reflection, articulating worth, and actualizing potential as I advance on my leadership path.