The 4 Stages of a Successful Personal Development Plan

In 2019 with my Solutions Engineering team in EMEA, I created a Personal Development Plan (aka PDP) framework. Nothing revolutionary compared to what we can already see on the market but I felt that this was missing in the PreSales org I worked in. If you have never heard of the term or are not familiar with this concept, the main goal of a PDP is to help the growth of each PreSales member on your team.

A PDP framework is intended to help the manager to facilitate the discussion with their team members regarding their development plan and their career plan. It’s a guide to set the PreSales Consultant on the right course when it comes to personal development. It is not intended to replace recurring discussions with them.

What is a PDP?

It's a Personal Development Plan. It's a process designed to enable you or your team members to think about, and plan for, your/their own career development.

Engaging with a PDP will allow you to :

  • Recognize the skills and abilities you/they are developing at work

  • Recognize how these skills and abilities are transferable

  • Identify areas you/they want and need to improve and develop

  • Plan for your/their future career

Why is it important?

As a PreSales manager, it can help you to set a standard for how you measure & discuss measurement with your team. It can also set a framework for identifying development opportunities for them. As a PreSales Consultant, this can help you move your career forward by having a plan in place that you can share with your manager.

Who is responsible for a PDP?

It is the responsibility of the PreSales individual to create their own Personal Development Plan and the responsibility of the Manager to support/coach them in the process.

Where to start?

The number one priority of a PDP should be to focus on the skills needed in the current role before thinking of developing additional skills. Before working on new skills, it’s important to master the core role first as a baseline for your own development. For example, if the PreSales role requires strong technical skills but the individual is not of the level required for the role, it suits to focalize the PDP on improving this core skill first.

I developed a 4-step process that can be easily followed by you (PreSales Manager).

Stage 1: Set the right expectations

Stage 2: Self assessment

Stage 3: Define a personalized action plan

Stage 4: Agree on next steps and monitor progress

Stage 1: Set the right expectations

First of all, both sides, the individual and manager should be on the same line regarding the goal of the PDP. The initial conversation between the two should be around expectations on each side to understand:

  • The Direction: How they both see the development plan going, what is the plan? (if there is one)

  • The Motivation: What motivates the PreSales consultant to develop themself, do they have some personal/ professional motivation you were not aware of?

For example, the PreSales consultants may want to develop their career into a new role or get promoted into a senior position. Or they may have a personal goal to do some long travel next year or to buy a house, which means that they don’t want to take on extra other responsibilities at work for the coming months.

The PreSales consultant and the manager should be on the same page regarding career progression and where to focus within the PDP, such as improving core skills for the current role, growing new skills for a promotion or a career move.

Stage 2: Self-assessment

The second step of the PDP is for the PreSales consultant to do a self-assessment. The goal of this second step is to:

  • Identify gaps: between where the PreSales consultant is and where they would like to go

  • Build on strengths: explore progress from starting the role to now

  • Recognize areas of development: areas of development can be different than gaps to fill. Someone could decide to focus on an area/skill where they are already strong but want to be even better, or realize that their gaps are not skill-oriented but behaviour-oriented.

For example, the PreSales consultants may agree that product knowledge and sales skills are areas of development but having a positive attitude (behavior) is much more important to focus on at this specific time since the consequences of the current behavior are impacting negatively the work done.

Stage 3: Define an action plan

Time for creation and implementation of the Action Plan! At this stage the PreSales consultant and the manager should know the areas of improvement to focus on. From my own experience, I strongly recommend to not focus on developing more than three skills/areas/behavior at once. You want to do things right and more than three will just spread/disperse the energy of the PreSales consultant.

For the manager this step is a coaching opportunity. This is where the manager can help to develop an action plan and SMART Tasks (Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant and Time-Bound) with the PreSales consultant.

By coaching, the manager aims to improve performance and focuses on the "here and now" rather than on the distant past or future. Here below is an example of it: