12 Month Sample Leadership Development Plan

A 12 month leadership development plan is essential to identifying, planning and executing a path to success. It is the key to implementing those strategies to help any leader develop the skills necessary to move up the career ladder. Last week I discussed the 3 main parts of a successful 12 month development plan and here is a sample leadership development plan to help you create your own.


Identify the areas you want to focus on for improvement and then select the action steps needed to make it happen by the target dates.


Every leader has talent in many areas that they simply may not be using to their full advantage. Next, identify your strengths that you can leverage for greater success and effectiveness.


The next to creating your leadership development plan is to focus on those behaviors you need to STOP, START and CONTINUE doing.


The last part of your 12 month development plan asks you to define what success looks like to you. How will you measure whether you’ve been successful achieving your development goals?

Take the time to complete your leadership development plan now and utilize it to improve your effectiveness as a leader. The rewards of creating and implementing your strategic plan will result in building stronger relationships at work, increasing productivity, improving your performance and benefiting your career and the company as a whole. For a complete 12 month plan and toolkit, download our sample leadership development plan here.

Create A 12 Month Leadership Development Plan

Every leader and high potential should complete a 12 month leadership development plan each year to help guide them through the actions necessary to take their career to the next level. Developing your leadership skills should be a continuous process, one that never ends even when you reach the corner office.

To get started, this blog will discuss the 3 main parts of a successful 12 month development plan and the next blog will give a few examples of a 12 month development plan. By taking the time to understand what goes into a successful development plan, you will be able to create one for yourself that will actually propel you forward in your career.

There are 3 main parts of an effective leadership development plan:


These are the main goals or outcomes you want to accomplish with your development plan. It is best to select 3 or 4 main objectives. They are usually the broad, umbrella goals that you are focusing on, such as:

  • Effectively transition leadership development from the external coach to the executive and his/her manager.
  • Specify the critical success factors required to meet the unit/function and position’s goals over the next 12 months.
  • Build a system that identifies multiple sources of feedback and learning required to sustain on-going development. save


Elements are the key components that create your development plan. They list out specific actions that are necessary to help you accomplish your goals and provide a complete picture of all that’s involved.

  • Unit/Functional vision (one that goes 3-4 years in the future).
  • Outline strategic initiatives for the role and unit, and tie them to the overall strategy.
  • Personal and business goals.
  • Develop plans for each initiative identified.
  • Leadership behaviors to stop, start and continue.
  • Identify leadership strengths to leverage for greater success.
  • Determine barriers or obstacles that need to be addressed.
  • Tie to the executive’s leadership strengths and goals.
  • Outline the key developmental opportunities that require on-going development and the plans to address each one (leadership challenges and opportunities to develop).
  • Get approval and buy-in from his/her manager for the plan.
  • Recruit advocates from team, peers and management to serve as feedback providers and coaches over the course of the year.
  • Determine measures of success.
  • Quarterly check-up dates.


Advocates are key stakeholders and/or a mentor who can be trusted. They are also motivated to provide on-going feedback and offer suggestions for change to the leader’s plan.

  • Advocates are best at the 360 degree levels: direct reports, peers and managers.
  • Recruit 4-5 advocates who agree to serve as feedback providers over the course of the year for your continued development.
  • Use the FeedForward process to help advocates be most effective.
  • Approach advocates at least quarterly for suggestions and recommendations on improving your leadership effectiveness.

Next week we’ll review some samples of a 12 month leadership development strategic plan so you will be able to create one to help guide you to career success.

Five Traits Of Great Leaders

After working with leaders over many years I have found that there are five clusters of traits which set truly great leaders apart. These five clusters are:

  1. Cognitive abilities (vision and strategic agility)
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Results-orientation (unparalleled drive and determination)
  4. Integrity
  5. Sociability






There are proven methods to develop those leaders with these traits to help build a leadership talent pipeline in organizations. These are presented in my recent article in Leadership Excellence magazine (page 18) titled “True Leaders – They Possess Five Traits” and it also includes the seven best practices for developing and retaining great leaders.

Best And Worst CEOs In 2013


Every year Sydney Finkelstein, professor of management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, releases his Worst CEOs and has added a list of the Best CEOs. It is very interesting to me to see what separates the best from the worst and it provides some lessons for all senior leaders.


Ron Johnson – formerly J.C. Penny. He tried to take a winning strategy from Apple and apply it to the retailer. He pushed it in spite of critics and failures. This is a classic mistake of applying a poor strategy to a company that was completely different.

Thorsten Heins – formerly Blackberry. He couldn’t execute his strategy and plan and ended up moving to other phones and applications.

Eddie Lambert – Sears. He took a winning strategy from hedge funds to the retailer. It just didn’t work since he overlooked merchandising, customers, and operational excellence.

Steve Balmer – Microsoft. Under his leadership the company’s stock has declined by 35% while Apple stock has appreciated 1900%. He had the company that could change the future but going with Zune for music, Windows-based phones and Bing for search let his new competition take their marketshare.


Jeff Bezos – Amazon. His relentless pursuit of the customer, coupled with innovation, has led their stock to increase 220X since 1997.

John Idol – Michael Kors. He is a strong marketer and a great leader who practices best management approaches.

Akido Toyoda – Toyota. He is a visionary leader who has enabled the company to retake the #1 position as automaker.

Successful CEOs create winning strategies for their particular markets that work in their companies. Executives who fail take strategies from previous companies and try and apply them to a new company. This losing strategy inevitably flops because the leader fails to take input from the external market and internally when their direction goes awry. I don’t understand why Boards of Directors continually hire CEOs with a questionable track record and allow them to try again to be successful. It just goes to show how there is a dearth of great leaders to run our complex global companies.

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Colorful


As part of our continuing blog series, “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers”, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior: Colorful.

Some degree of Colorful behaviors are required in many senior roles. You’ll want to be able to get your points across and convince others to follow your direction. I do a lot of work in the restaurant and hospitality industry and have found that successful leaders in this industry actually score moderately high on Colorful. When you think about the positives of high scores, leaders who are entertaining, high energy, and engaging do well when meeting guests. It is not an industry that tolerates leaders who are shy and quiet, especially in crisis. However, taken to an extreme, with an over-used strength, Colorful behavior can become derailing to your career. Anyone can go too far and alienate their work group, peers, and manager with this self-serving style.

One senior leader I had been working with and coaching was a good illustration of how Colorful behaviors can alienate followers. He was a very strong leader who made great first impressions and was an excellent company representative with customers and prospects. He was perceived as very entertaining to many, while others would not give him much respect with what they perceived as very attention-seeking behavior. In meetings, he would not listen to others’ inputs and didn’t seem to focus on the important issues. It was all about him; at least that’s what his behaviors indicated.

When he received the 360 degree survey feedback about his style and the negative impact it was having on others, he was quite dismayed and defensive. He had never received feedback like this in his whole working career. Over time, he began to “tone it down” and build a broader followership, but it has been difficult for him to fully accept the fact his style was no longer effective. While still a work in process, he is continuing to make progress with building a much stronger followership in the company.


The leader should continue: Entertaining clients and customers with energy and enthusiasm

The leader should stop: Interrupting others while they work and talking past their alotted time

The leader should begin:

  • Listening rather than talking
  • Asking others if you have understood them correctly
  • Finding opportunities to develop your direct reports

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their role.

4 Keys To Setting Development Goals


Did you set professional goals for this year? Setting goals for your professional lives is a good idea. It is meant to motivate you to reach that goal. But we often overlook the importance of setting the “right” goal and providing the steps necessary in order to successfully reach them. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when setting your leadership development goals.


Grand goals are just that, grand. It’s best, though, to keep your goals simple in order to make them attainable. Ask yourself what one skill you want to improve upon this year. Do you need to become a better listener? Do you want to improve your organizational skills? Choosing one goal and keeping it simple will help you develop the actions you need to develop a positive habit and incorporate it into your daily life.


Let’s use the example of becoming a better listener. What does this mean to you? Are you talking about not interrupting people, listening to ideas in meetings, or setting time aside each day to listen to people’s concerns. Be specific about what successfully reaching this goal looks like to you.


Determine what strategies and steps you need to implement in order to reach your goal. These steps should be simple and easy to incorporate into your daily life. For instance, if your goal is to be a better listener in meetings, you could say “What I hear you saying is…” before giving your opinion. Just by saying this one phrase you are taking the time to verify that you understand the other person’s idea, perspective or concern. Once you’ve validated what they said and established that both of you are on the same page, it’s easier to give your thoughts on the subject.

Often we want to make these action steps more complicated than they need to be. Instead, just ask yourself what one thing you can do today to get you closer to your goal. Then take a few minutes to do it every day and pretty soon it becomes part of your daily routine and you’ve reached your goal.


It’s important to review your progress on achieving your goal. Try to do this on a weekly basis. What did you do this past week to reach your goal? What can you do better next week to get closer to success? Another idea to help you review your progress is to ask other people to hold you accountable. Go to a trusted friend, peer or advisor at work and tell them what goal you have and what strategies you’re following to reach it. Then ask them to give you feedback on how well you’re progressing and what other ideas they have to help you. You might be surprised at the feedback you receive or the simple ideas they give you to help you reach your goal.

Goal setting is generally a good idea in order to accomplish tasks and improve your skills. It becomes a negative in people’s lives when they feel bad for not reaching it. So pick one simple goal, decide what success will look like to you, create your plan to reach it and ask for feedback to review your progress and you will soon be well on your way to achieving your goal.


12 month leadership development plan & toolkit

4 Mistakes To Avoid When Managing Conflict At Work

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Conflict in the workplace exists everywhere, regardless of the size of the company or type of business. As long as you have a minimum of two people working in the same office or on the same project, you have the potential for conflict.

There are different types of conflict. You can have a conflict with a boss, peer or subordinate regarding personality clashes, performance issues, jealousy, or general mistrust. There are also team conflicts that arise when a team is performing poorly due to low levels of communication, trust, direction or accountability. And there are also conflicts between departments within a company that arise from protecting one’s “turf”. Each type of conflict has its own unique set of problems, but there are some general mistakes people make when trying to manage these conflicts regardless of the situation.


An employee comes into your office to complain about the conflict they have with someone else. Your job as the leader is to remain neutral, hear all sides of the situation, and facilitate the people involved to help them solve their problem. If you take sides, even if the situation clearly shows someone is wrong and the other person is right, you risk permanently damaging the relationship with the “wronged” person. They will most likely choose to remember how you didn’t pick their side and they will develop a stronger level of mistrust towards you. It will be harder to solicit this person for positive work involvement and they risk becoming a larger problem in the future.


Unless the situation is a clear case of harassment, theft, abuse, etc., don’t rush to solve the problem for the people having the conflict. It’s too easy for some employees to expect their boss to solve every problem that arises and it’s a habit you do not want to encourage. Every person involved in the work conflict is an adult and with the right direction and skills, they can become empowered to learn how to resolve the conflict in a satisfactory manner for all involved. Your role as the leader is to facilitate the resolution of the conflict by stressing the importance of finding a “win-win” solution for all parties and attaining agreement and cooperation on a plan of action.


It is tempting to want to ignore a conflict and hope that it will resolve itself. However as the leader, it’s your responsibility to set the example of what behaviors, actions, and emotions you expect in the workplace. If you ignore conflict, you’re setting the tone for the office and creating an environment that quickly becomes hostile, negative and “every person for him/herself”. The longer the conflict remains, the more it will fester and affect the work environment. By addressing it quickly when it arises, you can eliminate a potentially larger problem in the future.


Negativity begets more negativity. As frustrating and emotionally draining conflict management can be, set the tone for resolving the conflict by remaining positive and professional at all times. When you resist the urge to yell, name call or blame the people involved, you signal to them that those behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They feel their problem is genuine and it should be treated as a real concern with respect, consideration, and kindness.

Leaders can help maintain a more positive work environment by avoiding these mistakes. If the conflict remains unresolved or the steps to resolve the problem have failed, bring in a leadership or team advisor to help all parties involved develop better communication, trust, and appreciation for each other’s differences. A neutral third party will be able to facilitate the resolution to everyone’s satisfaction.

Guidelines for choosing an executive coach

Be A Great Leader – Save Feedback


cps be a great leader 001

Are you a great leader? Would your peers, bosses and, most importantly, your subordinates say you are a great leader? Often times the view we have of ourselves is different from the way other people see us. You may think you’re strong, focused and determined. Others may see you as single-minded, unwavering and controlling.

Most leaders at every level know that feedback is an important part of the leadership development process. You learn what you do well and you identify the areas to focus on for improvement. Great leaders not only understand the importance of seeking feedback, but they also value implementing changes in their leadership style based on what they learn. The best way to think of this is by using the acronym SAVE: Seek, Apply, Verify, Exercise.


Maybe you do seek feedback from your boss, especially during yearly performance reviews. However, seeking feedback from your boss or one group of people does not provide the whole picture. One key to seeking feedback is to expand the pool from which you seek it. You have to be willing to seek feedback not only from your boss, but also your peers, employees, team members, and others across many department and levels to gain a true representation of your leadership style and performance.


What good is feedback if you don’t listen to the suggestions or make changes based on what is said? You might not agree with the feedback suggested (“Oh they simply don’t understand me”) but a great leader realizes he has to actually hear what is being said and apply the feedback to make changes for the better. Ask the feedback provider for specific suggestions (i.e. “How would you like to be recognized more often?”) and then make the commitment to incorporate it into your daily routine.


Once you have implemented suggestions to make it part of your behavior or daily habit, verify with the person who made the recommendation that you’re doing what they suggested. This not only shows you want to improve your performance, but it also signals to the person who provided the feedback that you care about them. Once they see that you actually heard what they said and started applying it to your situation, they will realize that you are truly concerned about them as a person and value their feedback. This is a key step to improving trust with your team or department.


Asking for feedback is good. Applying and verifying it is even better. Best of all, is when you make this a customary practice. Seeking feedback once a year is simply not often enough to be effective. By exercising the feedback process on a consistent basis, you’re developing a life-changing habit to continuously improve. Consider seeking feedback at a minimum every week or better yet, every day. Choose a different person to approach and ask him/her a specific question such as: “What can I do better to communicate my ideas? How can I improve the morale in the office?” Your team may think it strange at first and be reluctant to participate, but once it is established as part of an open and caring environment, everyone will want to step up their performance.

Seeking, applying, verifying and exercising feedback consistently will impact you, your team and your organization in positive ways. Once you learn to SAVE Feedback as a normal process for you, you’ll be one step closer to being the great leader you want to be.

leadership skills development

4 Best Practices Of High Performance Teams

What makes a high performing team? Why do some teams achieve goals and higher levels of productivity while other teams dissolve into a group of bickering dysfunction? Organizations and leaders need successful teams to complete projects, manage a department, work cross-functionally, launch products, develop new strategies and processes, and numerous other reasons. And when teams don’t perform well, then the whole department and company suffer the poor results.

Turn your dysfunctional teams into high performing teams by following these 4 best practices and remember them with this simple phrase: Double Team.

cps_high_performing_teamsTarget Trust

One of the most consistent issues I’ve found when working with dysfunctional teams is a clear lack of trust. Team members may not trust the team leader, the leader may not trust the team, and team members may not trust each other. When there is no trust on a team, people are less motivated to complete assignments, less likely to work together in a collaborative manner, and lack the desire to see others succeed. Target Trust on your team by focusing on gaining feedback and creating more open communication. Ask for confidential feedback from your team regarding what is working well, what isn’t succeeding, and how they suggest things change. Communicate to your team the results of the feedback and how you plan to change performance for the better. Once a more open communication environment has been established, you will be able to encourage a more collaborative team atmosphere.

Establish & Engage

Even if your team has been together for a long time, it’s never too late to Establish and Engage your team members on a set of common goals, vision, expectations, and clear roles. Aside from team trust, the next largest reason why team dysfunction exists is because there is an absence of understanding the following:

  • Common vision
  • Team goals
  • Roles and responsibilities of each team member
  • Expectations for the team

It’s often too easy to believe that everyone is on the same page when they’re not. Team members may be reluctant to ask questions or clarify roles out of fear or lack of trust. By establishing these areas, team members will clearly understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, who is responsible for what, when actions are necessary, and how to achieve team success.

Action Steps for Accountability

Once clear roles are established, turn your focus to Action Steps for Accountability. What effective processes are in place to ensure team members are following through on their responsibilities? How will the team hold each other accountable to increase team success? Develop an effective process for continually monitoring and evaluating progress towards goals, confirm commitment, and adjust performance or responsibilities when necessary. When every team member know what is expected of them, the consequences if goals are met, and steps to take when additional help is needed, it raises the standard of accountability for everyone and goes a long way towards creating a high performance team.

Motivate Members

As the team leader, it is your responsibility to Motivate your team Members. You need to set the tone for the team by  showing the standard of respect, credibility, accountability, and responsibility you expect from your team members. You can’t expect your team members to be responsible, respectable, and accountable when you fail to model that behavior. Another way you can motivate your team members is by remembering to recognize and reward their efforts. Take the time during team meetings to acknowledge when goals are met, reward hard work, and appreciate the effort your team is making to be successful.

Turning a dysfunctional team into a high performing workplace team isn’t hard to do, but it does take some time and effort on your part as team leader to initiate the change. By following the “double team” 4 best practices of high performing teams, you can lead your group to become the exceptional standard by which others want to emulate.

New Leader 90 Day Plan

cps new leader onboarding 001

Statistics show that almost 50% of new leaders will fail in their role within the first 18 months. In order to avoid the high cost of these failures, it’s critically important to onboard new leaders with the best action plan for success.

There is a list of best practices for onboarding new leaders and the first one is creating a 90 day action plan for new leaders. But how do you create a successful plan and what key components should be included? Create a new leader 90 day plan with the following elements, adapted from Michael Watkins book “The First 90 Days”,  to put your new leaders on the path to achieving their goals and assimilating into the company culture effectively.


The purpose of creating a new leader onboarding plan is to clarify your highest impact areas, focus your efforts, establish goals to help drive results and plan accordingly. It’s also helpful to understand the 3 phases of the 90 day outline and what should be accomplished during each stage.

Phase 1 – Discovery: Focuses on accelerated learning and establishing relationships with key stakeholders and your team (days 1-14).

Phase 2 – Diagnosis: Centers on the analysis and review of all information required to build the revised strategy, plan, structure, culture, operations, etc. (days 15-65).

Phase 3 – Direction: Concentrates on communication and implementation of the plans (days 66-90).


Now identify your objectives and what you want to accomplish in terms of your role, team members, stakeholders, operations, etc. during the 3 phases over the first 90 days. For example, some of your objectives may include: clarifying roles and expectations with key team members and stakeholders, understanding and influencing the budget, participating in the company’s realignment, developing process improvements in key areas, etc.

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Once your objectives have been established, you can identify the information and key milestones for each phase of the plan to monitor your progress toward your objectives. This will include meeting with key stakeholders, direct reports and team members to listen to their perspective and gain insight on problems and possible solutions; and researching past successes, failures, budgets, plans, processes, etc. to learn what is working and what isn’t.


An essential part of any new leader onboarding plan is sitting down with your CEO or boss for these 5 conversations: Situation (how the boss sees the business situation), Expectations (negotiate what is expected of you), Style (how you both can best interact), Resources (negotiate what resources are available to you), and Development (how your tenure in this job contributes to personal development). It helps to use an Executive Coach to help prepare you for the conversations with your boss as well as other aspects of the New Leader Onboarding Plan.


Once you have gathered your research and information, you can complete your analysis of who needs what, what steps need to be taken and what you will need from other people. This step will focus on what actions you can take to build your team, create alignment to goals, and form coalitions with allies. Then you can turn your attention to communicating and implementing your plan of action once your direction has been established.

The first 90 days are critical to the success of a new leader. While there are many steps to accomplish during this time, onboarding a new leader with a strategic 90 day plan in place will propel him/her towards achieving goals and positive assimilation. Download a sample 90 day plan for new leaders here to help you get started.