How to Make a Personal Development Plan That Works


Many leaders reach the top because they develop rapidly and well, often using personal development goals. But any Internet search reveals conflicting opinions on what actually works.

We have solid evidence of change, based on accomplishments by our executive participants in the Ascent Leadership Fellowship. These CEOs or comparable leaders set “big goals,” ambitions for themselves and their companies likely to conclude over one or more years (five years for one). Past research says that on average only 25% of participants make measurable change based on training, fewer in executive education.

Our fellowship did better in just six months:

  • 100% of our participants made meaningful progress

  • 75% got at least halfway

  • 18% completed their first goals

  • 25% progressed on a second goal

You can see a sample plan here, but there’s far more science underneath. Four key points:

  1. Goals vary by level and by purpose and can nest: a energizing “big goal” can have smaller, stepwise “SMART” goals within them as you learn enough to set them. Sometimes your goal is just to gather information.

  2. SMART goals in isolation demotivate; as a measurable step to a big goal, energize.

  3. Goals must motivate the person. A goal that does not matter will be ignored or rejected.

  4. “Networked” goals work better than alone: Announcing goals makes them more likely to complete; involving others at different steps provides a support network, reinforcing feedback, and concrete help when needed.

There’s far more to be said, and we do in our programs. Drop us a line to discuss!

Marietta Bryant