Personal Leadership Development Plan - Four Keys to Standing Out

Creating and executing a personal leadership development plan is a great way to stand out in any environment - especially in our current economy. The benefits of having such a plan can apply to anyone from the person in a traditional job to the small business owner. But what is a personal development plan and what should be in this plan? In addition to whatever technical requirements are essential for your position, may I suggest the following elements?

Keep Your Word - This may sound so basic but you and I both know people who casually say things like, "See you tomorrow" or "I'll get this report to you on Thursday" or "Keep in touch" without the smallest shred of intending to keep these commitments.

Some might scoff at such a small detail but this development plan is about standing out ... keep your word and you will get noticed! Only make promises you intend to keep. No exceptions. Finally, if you make a commitment and can't keep it due to circumstances beyond your control, apologize.


• Make one promise each day and then relentlessly keep each commitment. Slowly increase the number of promises and promises-kept as appropriate.

• Adopt the idea of under-promise and over-deliver (don't take this too far).

• Make fewer promises and keep more of the ones left in place.

• Write down the commitments and write down the progress.

Know What You Want ... Long-term - Let me first say this is NOT about steamrolling the competition. This is NOT about getting ahead at any cost. This about standing out ... positively! One important way for a person to stand out is to be self-aware.

To become more self-aware is usually a gradual process and is ultimately a life-long task. However, be encouraged with small steps forward. Note them! Celebrate them! Do not be discouraged but try to be as steady as possible at better understanding personal motivations for decisions and reactions. Take small steps and l-e-a-r-n from the new insights.

ACTION IDEAS - Start a journal to record your progress with the following questions.

• What did I learn today about myself? What mindset did I uncover? What great behavior do I want to repeat tomorrow and the next day and the next?

• What do you want to become and do over the long-term?

• If you are looking back over your life at age 85 or 90, what will success look like? What important relationships will you have cultivated? What will people think of you? What will be your personal brand by that late stage?

Value Excellence Over Perfection - While it's important to sweat the small stuff and be great at the details, there is a point where this becomes out of balance. Many companies and society at large tend to reward detail-oriented people. The fact is spending too much time sweating the fine points while working on the WRONG project make the details not matter.


• Are you working on the right projects that will advance your personal brand over time? If not, why not? (This may be OK for now depending on your long view.)

• If you feel forced to work on projects not in line with building your personal brand (economic conditions, lack of experience, etc.), do the work with gusto! Make each project become your signature work. You probably won't be doing the same thing for long.

Prize Relationships - Several years ago, I worked in an organization that made unusual upper management changes every couple years. Because of this, we had a saying, "Be careful who you make mad ... they might be your boss some day." There's a thread of truth in this saying.

Nobody likes a suck-up but to stand out requires working well with others. You might say this goes back to what we all should have learned in kindergarten: TAKE TURNS and SHARE. This advice alone helps a lot!


• Take turns comparing personal notes. Learn about co-worker family and friends. Some folks are very private and will not want to share this information. That's OK. Respect this. Others will gladly talk about a son's baseball game or a father-in-law who is a whiz at some hobby and so on. Be interested but not pushy. The real interest alone will build trust.

• Share appropriate information about your interests. There are many ways to build relationship bridges.

• ALWAYS think ‘networking.' Earlier in my working life, I did not value networking enough because I felt secure in my job. That worked fine until the job went away. You just never know how you may be able to help someone else and how someone may be able to help you in return.

• Practice remembering and using names in normal conversation. Most of us think there is a magical sound to our own names. You will get noticed!

Creating and executing a personal leadership development plan should be a no-brainer but it likely scares more of us then we might admit. Our challenging times require bold people who will personally invest in their own development. Let's face it ... you may be the only one looking out for you! Your action plan can do this and ensure you stand out as time goes on.


Mike is a change management consultant with Leading Strategies, and is the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." Mike is a former F-15/F-4 pilot and CFO and holds a M.B.A.

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