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  • Writer's pictureDeane Lam

Tips - How to Effectively Lead Your Team Through the Individual Development Plan Process

Recently I collaborated with an organisation to design a process for their employees' professional development. My focus extended beyond career growth to encompass personal development as well. Understanding employees' interests and passions is key to fostering job motivation and satisfaction in the workplace, ultimately contributing to their overall well-being and fulfillment outside of work.

Employee development, also known as people development, plays a crucial role in the broader human resources management process. It can be integrated at various stages to support employees' growth and success.


We introduced the concept of a career development profile—a tool I've often used in career coaching—to implement a structured Individual Development Plan (IDP) framework within the organization. The IDP serves as a roadmap for employees to achieve both short- and long-term career goals within the organisation, while also emphasizing personal growth such as values, passions, and interests.

However, having the IDP tool ready is just the beginning. Ensuring its effective use is a shared responsibility between leaders (managers) and team members (employees). Leaders play a crucial role in guiding (not telling) employees to understand their desires, needs, and available options.

Typically, an IDP involves four main discussion topics. Let's explore some questions and guidelines for each step.


Step 1 - Understand professional goals and motivations

  • What motivates and energizes you at work?

  • What opportunities do you envision for your future?

  • How can your current role help you develop and grow?

  • Where do your motivations align with the needs of the organization?

  • What specific skills or knowledge do you want to learn or develop to advance your career goals?

Step 2 - Explore talents/strengths and development needs

  • ­What are your talents or strengths?

  • What are your passions, and what do you love doing?

  • What areas do you seek to improve or learn?

  • In what areas do others recognize your strengths?

  • What accomplishments make you feel proud?

  • Can you share your reflections on any assessment reports, such as the PRISM report?

Step 3 - Plan the development objectives

  • What roles or teams within the organisation would you enjoy working in?

  • How does your current role align with the department's and company's goals, such as achieving greater efficiency or expanding product lines to increase growth?

  • Considering your current career situation and future aspirations, where should you focus your development efforts?

  • What objectives will you set for this IDP?

  • Will your IDP focus on building capabilities, preparing for new opportunities, or both?

  • Which of your strengths or talents do you plan to leverage more frequently or expand upon?

  • What development opportunities do you consider important to focus on?

Step 4 - Prepare an action plan

  • How do you prioritise, with my support, to achieve your short- and long-term goals?

  • Do you recall what SMART action steps are?

    • Specific: Can you clearly define the objective you want to accomplish?

    • Measurable: How will you know when it's complete?

    • Attainable: Is it realistic based on your current skills and experience?

    • Relevant: How does it directly contribute to the goal you and the organization are pursuing?

    • Time-bound: Can you accomplish it within a reasonable time frame?

  • What specific actions will you take to achieve this goal?

  • What learning and development activities will you undertake for this goal?

  • How do you assess the realism of your goals and timelines?

  • How can I support you?

  • What additional information do you need at this stage?

  • How do you feel about this development plan?

  • Would you like some time to review and finalize it?

  • Let's schedule regular meetings to review progress until the agreed action plan is completed.

  • What would you like to tackle first?

In the IDP process, the list of questions serves as the 'WHAT' to assist leaders/managers in having effective conversations with their team members. However, success in this process hinges on the 'HOW,' which is trust. Trust is built gradually, day by day, by both parties, and is a valuable investment in the relationship.

For further guidance on building trust, please refer to our Tips and Tools. Additionally, taking action is the real challenge of the IDP. Regular reviews are crucial for leaders to follow up with team members, address challenges, and celebrate successes.

The IDP is not merely a yearly 'homework' for employees. As leaders, the purpose of utilizing the IDP is to uncover our team members' potential and passions, fostering a sense of pride in their work. This, in turn, enables them to return home with a sense of accomplishment and approach the workplace with renewed motivation.

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