The six essential steps to creating your own development plan.

April Sabral

/ Leadership

A development plan is a documented commitment to make yourself own you’re learning and growth.

It outlines your strategy for developing the skills, attributes or knowledge you need to move forward on your chosen path and the measurements you’ll use to chart your progress along the way.

A development plan is created by you the individual and driven by you. The process will require that you reflect on your career and identify the areas you want to improve, learn more about, or fine tune. You will also need to think about your short term and long term career goals and the news skills and knowledge you may need to prepare you for the future.

This worksheet will walk you through the process of creating the plan that you will use to develop yourself and own your performance. Why is this important? Because to be seen as a high performer you need to drive your own development and exude more will than skill which will eventually turn into skill….

Creating a Plan:

There are six essential steps to a successful development plan. Each of these following steps will be explained in detail as you move through this worksheet.

  1. Define your personal development goal
  2. Determine the must have skill
  3. Identify the gaps and priorities
  4. Commit to your plan
  5. Partner for success
  6. Make it so!



To begin you need to determine your overall development goal and/or the reason you want to develop. The most typical reasons include:

  • Being new to role
  • Struggling in your current role in a specific area
  • Preparing yourself for a future career move
  • Being good at what you do, and having no immediate aspirations to move, but wanting to get even better and develop further mastery(build your strengths)

Having an overall goal will help you identify ares for development and keep focused. Think about your aspirations. What do you want to be both personally and professionally?

Write this out on a piece of paper.

STEP 2: Determine the must have skills

In this step you will identify and list the skills, attributes and knowledge that you want to develop, improve or learn more about. It is recommended that you keep these focused on the overall goal identified in step one however to start, its useful to list as many as you can.

In step three you will use a ranking process to determine which ones are the most important.

To get started you will need to gather information and tools that will assist you in identifying your areas of strength and areas for development. This may include:

  • Current position description: List any area in your current role you would like to improve on.
  • Coaching or feedback from your manager peers
  • Position description for desired role
  • Your latest performance appraisal


STEP 3: Identify gaps and establish priorities

Start with two development goals, not more than three. You need to make it manageable so that you can achieve them.

  1. Review the list of development areas
  2. Within the importance column, rank each item most important with 1(least) to 5 (most)
  3. Within the current performance rank honestly 5(high) to 1(low)
  4. The elements that are ranked High important 1 and low performance 1 are where you will receive the biggest return on your development efforts.

Use this table to rank yourself.

Must have skills/Knowledge/attributes (STEP 2)Ranking (step 3)Ranking (step 3)
1=high 5=low
Current performance
1=low 5=high


STEP 4: Commit to your plan

For a plan to be effective it needs to include:

  • The specific methods and actions you will take to develop yourself
  • The measurements you and your manager will use to chart your progress so that you will know when you have achieved your development goal.

The method you choose will be customized to you’re learning priorities and your individual learning style. Some examples are:

  1. Find a mentor
  2. Read a book on relevant topic
  3. Take an online course
  4. Job shadow
  5. Stretch assignment


Then its time to put a measurement in place before you begin. This will help you see where you have achieved you’re learning goals. Ask yourself the following questions as you create your specific measures.

  1. When I achieve my learning goal will it be different?
  2. Will my results improve?
  3. Will I be able to handle specific situations more skillfully? What will that look like?
  4. Will I be ready for the promotion I want?
  5. How will my manger know I have achieved my learning goal?
  6. How long will it take me to achieve the goal?


STEP 5: Partner for success

Your personal development plan is now ready for you to partner with your manager. Their role is to enable you to grow and direct you to the areas you have outlined. They should also be holding you to your commitments.

STEP 6: Make it SO!

As you accomplish a goal, update your development plan and share your results with your manager. Reflect on you’re learning and think about what you did, what you read, what you learned. Ask yourself:

  • What were the lessons?
  • What have I incorporated as a permanent part of my job?
  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What learning methods worked well for me and what didn’t work?

Your now ready to start over once you have achieved the goal set.

Remember you may work on a development goal for an entire year or two months it really depends on what it is. There are no rules to how fast a development plan should be achieved as long as you are making progress.

At retailU we provide online e-learning courses for retail managers to develop their leadership skills.

Interested in finding out more?

Check out “The intentional Leader” e book and video e-learning course. This book and course was designed and written by April Sabral.

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