By Tra Williams
If you are serious about growing your business, everyone on your team needs a strategic plan for their own development that is separate from and exceeds the company’s current needs. Here’s why:
Every year millions of business leaders spend days, if not weeks, collaborating with their peers to develop a strategic plan for their company to execute. They set goals, outline tactics, and cascade information to all levels of the organization. If done properly, each department and each person will understand their role in the plan, and throughout the twelve months that follow, everyone will strive to do their part.
However, in doing so, they hitch their personal development wagon to the company star.
Without a separate strategic plan for themselves as individuals, they unwittingly limit their development to the skills required to achieve the goals of their employer. Most don’t realize the limitation because their employer usually acknowledges and rewards them for their efforts. Therefore, their development feels like an accomplishment, not a limitation. But here are four reasons why the company-prescribed linear path isn’t enough for either the individual or the company.
1. White Space
Great companies build growth strategies around the opportunities their existing infrastructure affords them. If every team member develops only in ways and at the pace their employer’s goals require, this limits the organization’s growth to the plans for that year. However, if team members develop with their own momentum, unplanned opportunities can be immediately seized. There are no crystal balls, so growth-focused organizations need untapped talent on their bench if they want the corporate agility that unplanned opportunities require.
2. Stronger Partnerships
When contemplating potential business partnerships or joint ventures, due diligence should (and usually does) include an asset assessment—and people are every company’s most valuable asset. The nature of new partnerships means growth and change. Both sides of the equation want to know that the other side has the existing talent the venture requires.
Individuals are more marketable when their skill set advances with its own momentum. Fortunately, these individuals also add marketability to the company itself. Most business owners have an exit strategy that usually involves a merger, an acquisition, or going public. All three require an investment from outside the company.
Investors always expect growth in addition to a return on their investment. Potential shareholders may not examine employee development prior to buying Apple or Amazon stock, but venture capitalists look for companies that have growth opportunities and a talent pool to turn those opportunities into profits. Untapped talent means additional revenue opportunities, and that’s like ringing the dinner bell for hungry investors.
Succession planning is always a fickle challenge. As businesses mature, so does their leadership. Often, members of the existing executive leadership team are close in age. When they begin to hit the retirement horizon, a difficult choice arises: promote from within or hire from without.
Hiring externally is always a gamble, and studies show it is more cost-effective to develop your own leaders. A study by the Wharton School of Business showed that hiring externally costs 18 to 20 percent more than promoting from within and performs worse—at least in the first two years. A Harvard study showed that replacing a CEO with an external candidate results in an average performance drop of 6 percent. New faces come with unknown consequences, and culture is binary. Someone may look good on paper, but a C-Level exec who is culturally inconsistent with the company can have catastrophic consequences, especially in smaller organizations.
If you are serious about growing your business, it is important that each person on your team develop their own plan. It should not include additional expectations prescribed by the company.
However, the company should set parameters for what is in each person’s plan. For instance, every person’s plan should include both hard and soft skills. At least one of their personal development goals should be a hard skill that is unrelated to their current duties. The plan should also include short-term and long-term development goals. With enough practice, it may only take a few months to become a better public speaker, but it may take years to speak another language. And finally, every person’s plan should include at least one goal that builds upon his or her previous plan. While not too prescriptive, parameters like these assure development breadth and depth.
We spend a lot of time developing plans for our businesses. And to be fair, most of us work hard to facilitate people development as well. There is a difference, however, between working hard to facilitate something and having a strategic plan that includes tangible tactics and measurable outcomes. The former shows that you care about your people. The latter shows that you recognize personal development is the lynchpin for success.
Tra Williams is a celebrated speaker, business consultant, and author of the forthcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in small business, franchising, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Tra works tirelessly with people, professionals, and organizations to help them define success on their own terms and build the framework required to sustain it. For more information, please visit www.TraWilliams.com.