Better Development Planning Conversations [378 words]

If your fiscal year starts on January 1st, you’re probably in the middle of some goal-setting conversations with your team members. You’re probably also looking at professional development planning goals and activities for the year. Being an inclusive leader means co-creating customized development goals for each team member. It’s your job to help them find and access the resources they need to grow, on their own terms. (Article continues below video.)

Professional development conversations are make-or-break moments for building trust with your team members. That means coming prepared, listening attentively, and thinking creatively.

Preparing for Development Conversations

Leaders must show up to development conversations prepared to lead the discussion. First, consider all the technical and leadership competencies your team members need to thrive in your organization. Then, think about the inherent strengths and natural talents each person contributes to your team. Finally, be sure you know all the policies, approvals, processes, resources, and budgets you’ll have to navigate on behalf of your employees.

Listen Attentively

Start development conversations by asking good questions about where the employee would like more challenge and opportunity, their aspirations, and their confidence in reaching their goals. In their next role, do they want to deepen their technical focus, manage projects, or lead people? Or would they prefer to stay in their current role and invest their development efforts in a personal passion? Start with the basics, listen without judgment, and offer genuine support for whatever ambitions they share with you. Just remember not to make any promises you can’t keep.

Think Creatively

If you have an employee who seems overwhelmed by the development planning process, try asking if there’s anyone whose job they’d like to learn more about. Use your own network connections to set up informational interviews about other jobs and departments. These can be formal, but they don’t have to be. A simple coffee meeting can help you reconnect with a colleague while also providing a warm introduction for your employee. Remember, networking itself is a valuable skill for leadership and career development. Don’t forget to lead by example!

How will you help your team members thrive in their current role, make progress toward a career goal, or position themselves for a promotion?

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Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at

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