Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Mentoring Others for Their Development

6 Reminders for Helping Others Create Goals and Development Plans

As we think of helping others create their personal goals and development plans, one of the first thoughts that should enter our minds is this:  What’s the purpose of this exercise?  Remembering the adage – always begin with the end in mind – we are instructed to ask ourselves, “What’s the desired outcome of these plans?”  Once that’s clearly defined, then the actual plans themselves are more easily identified.

The more specific the outcomes articulated, the more specific the plans can be to help accomplish them.  For example, a poor outcome would be, “to grow in Christlike character.”  Not that this is a bad overall objective, but a better outcome might look like, “to grow in Christlike humility.”  Note the sharper focus.  Now the plans on how to actually work intentionally on growing in humility will naturally flow out of this outcome.

A second reminder on setting goals and plans is that they must have a specified time period (time horizon) for their accomplishment.  In the collegiate context, we normally think in terms of semesters or summer breaks.  In the marketplace we think more along the lines of fiscal years or calendar years.  Knowing the time frame for accomplishing the goals again makes it easier to determine what realistically can be accomplished during the time allotted.

A third reminder is that as we help others in setting these goals, the outcomes must be agreed upon from the beginning of the time period.  If we do not have agreement on the outcomes, then, when it comes time for evaluation or feedback related to accomplishment, we will have major problems.  There should be no surprises on what was expected because from the beginning both parties agreed upon what the desired outcomes were.  Now we can objectively look at the facts of what really got accomplished during the time determined.  Did we hit the mark, overshoot, or undershoot?

A fourth reminder is to help others set realistic goals.  Many of us have over-zealous ambitions (ideas) on what we think we can get done in a given time period.  We too often shoot for the moon and barely hit the ceiling!   Helping others create goals and objectives that are realistic, allowing some margin for obstacles and unexpected challenges along the way, is part of the art of leadership.  Some may have to be challenged to stretch a little more than they are comfortable with, perhaps fearing failure more than stepping out in faith.  Again, the art of helping them put more stretch, growth, faith, etc. in their goals is an art, not a science.

Fifth, whatever goals or plans we finally settle on, remember that, “Man plans his ways, but God directs his steps.”  Plans and goals are simply tools to help us live more fruitful and obedient lives as we follow Christ.  They are not to master us, but rather serve us as we live day-to-day.  We must be careful that we don’t become slaves to our plans.  Plans are great servants, but poor masters!

Finally, remember to follow through on a period of feedback when the time period is finished.  As a mentor, it does not help the development of others if I don’t review with them their accomplishments after the time period is up.  This review should be one of overall affirmation, with few surprises.  Any shortfalls should have been highlighted along the way, not waiting until the end of the time to communicate dissatisfaction or failure.  If the goals were specific enough to begin with, then the outcomes should be self-evident.  In the case of shortfalls, we’ll need to discuss the “whys” and how to avoid them in the future, as well as lessons learned through the experience.

Creating goals and development plans are helpful for living focused and fruitful lives for the King.  Develop the habit and seek to help others do the same.  You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish for His glory!

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