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Career Development Basics

See Dr. Prince's courses here.

Career Development for Managers, Leaders, and Professionals:
Making the Most of What You Have and More of What You Don’t

By Jay S. Prince, Ph.D.
 Licensed Psychologist and Business Consultant

Do you really want that promotion? Will the boss include you in the group of people groomed to manage the new offices? Does management appreciate your efforts at work? Read on and find out what the boss is looking for in the perpetual whitewater of the "information age."

More than ever before, executives and corporate managers are extolling the importance of developing the key people in their organizations. They’ve known for the better part of a decade that business in this fast-paced world will rise and fall based on how well they manage their human resource portfolio. Why? Because productivity is about performance, and performance is about people!

That means they are looking to see how well you develop the talents you were born with, and how well you build up the ones you weren’t.

"I’ll bet most of the companies that are in life-or-death battles got into that kind of trouble because they didn’t pay enough attention to developing their leaders."

-- Wayne Calloway, Chairman, Pepsi Co.


So, what’s a hard-working, forward-looking person like you to do? You think you know yourself pretty well, right? After all, you’ve been with yourself for…well, for just about forever. Maybe you think you’re already doing everything you can to improve your game. You’ve gone to training seminars, continuing education classes, and motivational speakers. You even went to the company retreat where they made you climb across high wires and join the finale with the group hug. What more can you do? Listen. Career Development is not just about skill building or training. These things are necessary, but they account for a very small percentage of why the good get even better.

Decades of experience and research demonstrate that, when executives either stall or derail in their careers, it’s typically a result of their heavy reliance on strengths and strategies that were effective in the past. However, these tried-and-true methods simply cannot carry the day during dramatically changing times. Yet, the under-performing executive does not admit this and resists embracing a new approach.

Development is about knowing yourself even better--well enough to make true, lasting behavioral changes--and a viable plan to meet your change objectives. To do that, you’ll need:

  • Solid, valid feedback about all of your strengths and weaknesses

  • multi-lateral motivation to make the necessary changes, and

  • Change partners for your development initiatives.


Together, these three elements serve as the infrastructure for your Action Plan, which guides your achievement of measurable results. Let’s take a closer look at these three elements.


Feedback: Use high-tech, state-of-the-art assessment instruments to provide detailed feedback about your "work personality," namely your strengths and weaknesses in your Thinking Style, Emotional Style, Work Motivations, Interpersonal Style, and Interpersonal Influence. This information will tell you where there are gaps between your potential and your present level of performance. These are targeted areas for growth. You then use the feedback you collect from these assessment tools to construct the goals for your Action Plan. "I have to communicate better with the members of my team," "I need to be more perceptive about people," "I need to become more comfortable in social situations."

Many people make the mistake of trying to guess or quickly decide where they need to improve. This is usually insufficient. Why? Because, quite simply, you don’t know yourself and your flaws as well as you think you do. In fact, there’s a part of our mind that rather likes to keep these deficits out of our awareness. That is why we recommend using a more objective, validated approach to assessing your work personality. There are several fine instruments available for this purpose.


Motivation: We know that adults are motivated to learn and change when we appeal to their personal growth and personal gain. In other words, it is important to find out WIIFM- What’s In It For Me? Motivation also increases when enhanced self-esteem and empowerment are part of the deliverables. So, figure out what you stand to gain by bridging the gaps in your performance. How will your work performance improve? In what ways will you become a more effective leader? How will your development affect the team and your relationship with others?

Give these questions some careful consideration. At the same time, take a hard look at the consequences of not doing anything to improve your game. Will you still be seen as progressive in the company? How will not changing affect your chances for advancement? Will your work relationships suffer? These consequences can also serve as a motivating influence on your commitment to change. Make your lists of what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Revisit the issue in a few days and add to your list of motivators.


Change Partners: Enlist the involvement of others. Change requires support from others playing a variety of roles: coach, mentor, counselor, advocate, and more. Change requires change partners! You’ve seen from your own experience that your commitment to change can wax and wane. (Exercise? Stop smoking? Diets? Temper?) It really helps to have someone in your corner who is supporting your efforts and gently reminding you to get back on track if they see you slip.

Who can you involve in your development plans? Which colleagues would support you in achieving your goal? How can your spouse help you monitor your progress? Is your supervisor interested in helping you? (They usually are and usually see your efforts as highly commendable.)

You’ve now got the basics for developing yourself and supercharging your career. Start your own Career Development project today by gathering these three pieces of the Action Plan! 

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