When I begin a development engagement, I spend time to understand their situation and help them align their growth outcomes. I’m helping them balance what is personally satisfying to them, with what is high impact for their organization and its mission.
Usually, that begins with an overarching question (How do you want to develop?) to articulate the development goal. That can be on stakeholder feedback, a recent performance discussion, 360 degree assessments and the like. What I’ve learned about this discussion is to approach the discovery with three additional questions which build the business case for the effort time and resources to achieve the goal.
Here are the the four questions:
What’s your goal for development?
This is the starting point. They’re getting feedback from somewhere that there’s a benefit from developing some aspect of their world. Where’s that input coming from? How much energy are they feeling about the importance of the goal.
How will you change through your investment?
The major premise behind this question: We achieve success based on who we are as well as what we do. Performance discussions tend to focus most of their energy on the action part: hat will we do? The best coaches focus first on who we are. Who we are makes what we do possible (or impossible!)
What new skills will you build? What new insights or subject matter expertise will you gain? Will there be any new attitudes or beliefs that occur because of your development investment? With these questions and others like them, we are trying to establish how the client will change and evolve as a person. Development isn’t so much about attaining specific tactical goals as it is about growing as a person in becoming more capable and more motivated to achieve those goals.
What new behaviors will others observe in you?
This question goes to measurement and accountability. Discussion of this question helps the learner clarify the goals in terms of what others will see. How will current behaviors change as the learner and coach work on the development objective.
What mission outcome will you enable when you accomplish your objective?
This is the “So, what?” question, often stated in terms of the deliverable performance metrics for the organization or business. Business metrics like revenue, profit, expanding the customer base, new and different service lines, time to market…. Personal metrics like leadership confidence, promotability, employee engagement, and so on.
If you like the Covey habits, it’s “Begin with the end in mind.”
Some outcomes are more easily quantified than others. But whether it’s a tangible outcome or intangible outcome, it should be realistic and compelling to all concerned. It nails down the business case for the development project. As well, it helps the learner and stakeholders choose between several potential learning objectives. Which one will have the biggest “bang for the buck.”
When goals and outcomes are well aligned, everyone associated with the development project will be more motivated to do what it takes to make the learner succeed in their development project.