If you’re going into a new job as a step to a different job, you need to co-create a personal development plan with the people responsible for filling the second job. Don’t read this wrong. You still need a 100-Day Action Plan to help you and your team deliver better results faster in the first job. And you also need a deliberate plan to develop the strengths required for the second job.

The two are concurrent. Follow the seven steps of executive onboarding for the first job, getting a head start before the start, managing your message, setting direction and building your team, and sustaining momentum and delivering results.

And, while you’re adjusting to the changes that come your way, make sure you’re adjusting yourself to prepare for the next job. This is about building your strengths – the combination of innate talent, learned knowledge, practiced skills, hard-won experience, and apprenticed craft-level caring and sensibilities.

The going-in assumption is that you have the right motivation for the second job, that you are going to fit with the organization and that you have the innate talent to succeed. Given that, identify the strengths required, your current strengths and gaps, your development objectives, and plan to build them.

Step 1: Identify the strengths required to be successful in the new, second job.

Step 2: Identify your current strengths to develop and current strength gaps to fill. People often focus just on filling gaps. The Animal School fable teaches us that that leads to a class of average ducks instead of a team with differentiated, complementary strengths. Don’t do that. Build your already existing and fill the gaps between the strengths you currently have and those required to be successful in the new, second job.

Step 3: Lay out your developmental objectives for the period between now and when you need to be ready for the second job. This has three or four components, the fourth being craft-level caring and sensibilities as those are not always required.

  • Learn knowledge. You can acquire knowledge by reading internal and external materials. You can take courses, again either internally or offered externally by organizations, schools and the like. You can go through training seminars and programs.
  • Practice skills. A lot of practice can be done on-the-job. Alternately, you can find other opportunities to practice skills including volunteer jobs. Deliberate practice involves picking one skill in one particular situation and sharpening that skill. Then moving on to another skill.
  • Gain relevant experience. Think about a string quartet. While the individual artists can practice on their own, they need the experience of working together in rehearsals, recitals and the like. You can experience parts of your new job by engaging in real-world activities, but working on projects, by working on programs that comprise multiple projects. You might do some interim roles, take some part-time assignments, or map out a series of full-time roles leading to the major job you all have in mind.
  • Apprentice to people with craft-level caring and sensibilities. This requires the greatest investment in time and is not required for all roles. Some sensibilities cannot be learned, practiced or even experienced. They have to be absorbed from masters over time. A classic example is Stephen Sondheim who was apprenticed to theater legend Oscar Hammerstein to absorb his sensibilities, on rhyme, characterization and storytelling.

Resources to be deployed. Having laid out your plan, think through the resources required to help you implement it. This may include managers, coaches, trainers, craftspeople (internal or external). Nothing is a real priority until you devote the resources required to make it a success.

Your own responsibilities. Be clear on what you’re going to do to learn, practice and experience for which you’re holding yourself accountable.

Responsibilities of manager/coach. Align with your manager or coach what they are going to do to help you learn, practice and experience and how they are going to hold themselves accountable.

Step 4: Lay out your plan with specific milestones and timing. Of course, the plan will change as your ratchet up your current best thinking or things change. But start with a plan.

Step 5: Implement, track, and adjust as appropriate.

If you and those responsible for filling the second job co-create the developmental objectives and plan and deliver it together, there should be no question about if and when you’re ready for that job.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #823) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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