Setting Personal Development
Objectives that Work
By Hugh Murray
The key to self-development is
motivation. You can make people do many things, but
self-development isn’t one of them. People will develop if they
want to and they won’t if they don’t. Any approach to encouraging
self-development that does not start with this reality will fail.
It is widely agreed today that people
should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own
development and that managers play a key role in making this
happen. But that is really as far as it goes. Most managers are
then left to flounder around, trying to help identify personal
development plans, in a process that could be described at
AIM is a new approach to setting
development objectives that actually work – that actually lead to
self-development and therefore to an improvement in performance.
AIM stands for
The starting point for any discussion of
self-development – the "A" of AIM - has to be the individual’s
aspirations. People will be motivated to develop themselves if they
want to achieve something that requires development. If someone
wants to be a doctor badly enough they will undertake the necessary
training and hard work. If they don’t, they won’t.
Any manager seeking to help an
individual to develop must start with a discussion of the
individual’s aspirations – what does he or she want to achieve?
Only when this is clear will it be possible to identify areas for
development that the individual will want to address. The problem
is that most people don’t have a clear idea about what they want to
The manager’s role in this situation is
to help people think about their aspirations – about what they want
to achieve. And
are the most powerful tools you have to help people to think.
Statements invite challenge. Questions invite thought.
The most obvious question to ask, but
one that rarely works, is: "Tell me what you want to achieve in this
job?” Occasionally, this will produce a useful answer but most of
us simply don’t think like this and you’re likely to meet either
stunned silence or the overly simple: "Money!” A more fruitful
approach is likely to start with: "What aspects of your current job
do you particularly enjoy?” Most people can answer this and the
reply may give you a clue to their longer-term aspirations.
Alternatively, you can try the opposite approach: "What aspects of
your current job cause you problems?” You can guide people into a
discussion of their aspirations by asking them how they might do
more of what they like, or less of what they don’t. However you do
it, you need to help people get clear in their own minds just what
it is that they want to achieve. Only then can you move forward to
identify self-development that they will want to do.
The "I" of AIM stands for interests.
Development must be in the interests of the organization and
compatible with your corporate goals. If there is no motivation,
there will be no development, but if the organization does not
benefit, there will be no point. So why not start by identifying
development that is in the organization’s interests and then look
for ways of motivating someone to develop in that way? The answer
it does not work.
feel that they are being manipulated if you try to fit their
aspirations into the organization’s aims. You end up selling them
on a particular development and they will see through this.
People respond better if you focus on
them – on what they want to achieve – and then look for advantages
to the organization later. You will end up with a much more
motivated individual if you begin with him or her. Motivation is
more important than any other single aspect of development. So
start with what motivates the individual and then apply the
organization's interests to select which developments to support.
Finally, the "M" of AIM stands for
measurement. A development objective is not likely to work unless
the outcome is measured. Development is about improving performance
so measure development by measuring performance. You measure
performance by observing the
of that performance. For example, measure leadership by observing
the effect of the leadership on the team. If leadership has
improved the team, performance will improve.
For a self-development objective to be effective, the measurement of
success must be clear and unambiguous. There can be no room for
argument about whether the objective has been achieved or not.
Choose an observable effect of the improved performance and then
agree a clear measure of that effect.
Hugh Murray resides in the UK and is a Chartered Fellow of the
CIPD. Hugh is the author of many successful multimedia and video
materials and a popular public speaker on management and learning
the author for permission to republish or reuse this article.]