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7 deadly sins of development planning, part 2

What if you planned the development of your employees with the same focus and rigor as you do business and strategic planning?

4 min read


7 deadly sins of development planning, part 2

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This is the second of a two-part series. Read part 1.

If you’re like many leaders, you are knee-deep in preparing strategies and tactics to drive success in the new fiscal year. And that prompted me, in the first part or this two-part series, to pose the question:

What if leaders brought the same thoughtfulness, rigor, and discipline that we apply to business planning to the individual development planning process?

People are the power source behind executing all plans. They are the driving force behind achieving all results. Their success goes hand-in-hand with organizational success. So, perhaps it’s time to elevate individual development planning to the strategic level and importance it deserves.

But development planning is fraught with misconceptions, a lack of meaningful attention, and inertia. In Part 1 of this series, seven deadly sins or bad leadership habits were introduced. The first four were:

  1. Focus on the form.
  2. Conflate development with performance.
  3. Assume everyone has their sight set upward.
  4. Force it all into a single meeting.

And there are three more that, if addressed, can unleash potential and the power to move even the most ambitious business plans forward.

Deadly sin No. 5: Insist that a detailed plan is the optimal outcome

The goal of development planning is becoming less about delivering a comprehensive plan and more about alignment.

Because what’s documented can become obsolete before it even reaches the cloud, what’s more important than the plan is shared understanding about high value skills, abilities and contributions. What’s more important than the form is communication and a common framework for thinking about the future, it’s challenges, and possible ways to position ourselves for success in multiple scenarios. What’s more important than an action plan is instilling a sense of agility — the ability to respond nimbly to changing conditions.

Deadly sin No. 6: Believe that you (the leader) must have all of the answers

At its core, development is about relationship and conversation. Leaders who are most effective at helping others grow are those who understand their role in the process. They understand that they are the spark that helps ignite insights in others. But those insights must come from the employee. Leaders can and should inspire, curiosity, tap a sense of possibility and promote opportunity-based thinking. But the tool to make this happen is questions. And the answers rest with and within the employees whose growth they’re supporting.

Deadly sin No. 7: Take responsibility for an employee’s next steps

This final deadly sin has contributed for years to many leaders’ sense of overwhelm and even a sense of failure when it comes to supporting the career development of their reports. For too long, leaders have had the mistaken belief that they are somehow responsible for the development of their employees. Many feel like it’s their job to put the employee on their backs and carry them across the career finish line.

This is exhausting and unrealistic. Employees must own their careers. Now, this doesn’t mean they are in it alone. Leaders have a critical role, but that role is to ask, facilitate, encourage, connect, brainstorm and — ultimately — let next steps and action live with employees.

Let’s face. Development planning isn’t easy. And, it’s quickly morphing in response to changing demographics, growth of the contingent workforce and escalating organizational demands. But mastering the ability to help others grow is the key to being able to deliver on ambitious business plans.


To help, I’ve recently partnered with my Beverly Kaye and Berrett-Koehler Publishers to create a brief e-guide, Ignite Development Potential: The Modern IDP, with tools and strategies to overcome these 7 deadly sins and transform employee development from another arduous requirement to a meaningful, engaging, and interactive experience. You can download it here.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want,” You can learn more about her speaking, training and blog at

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