Self-Development Plan – Play to Your “Strengths”

By Makarand Gawade, Staff Writer


In today’s dynamic global marketplace it is imperative to be cognizant of and comprehend one’s own strengths. I believe a person can perform better working on his/her strengths than on his/her weaknesses. However, I think we are always concerned about our weaknesses rather than focusing on our strengths. I recently read an article from Gallup where the writer has reinforced that “the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors”, and I couldn’t agree more. With three weeks to graduation, we are getting ready to rejoin the professional world. I believe for any graduate student, it is of paramount importance to keep enhancing his/her own strengths and natural abilities, and monitoring the improvement periodically to progress rapidly in their professional career by transcending job responsibilities. This is how I am planning to play to my strengths!

smart_goalsFirstly, I will set SMART development goals. I will focus on what strength/competency I am targeting for development, and I will set a realistic goal. Further, I will define a specific time-frame for developing that particular competency. For instance, if I start working on becoming a better delegator, then I will approach it sensibly and won’t set a target in which I would expect myself to completely transform within a month.  I will start with delegating minor tasks to colleagues, and will gradually begin to trust them based on their performance. This will help me change my outlook towards my team, and I will delegate tasks more freely.

Secondly, I will seek a mentor or guide who will give me honest and constructive feedback on my development process.  Also, I will ask peers or direct reports whether they notice any betterment in me, and I will use any mistakes as a learning tool to further develop my competencies.

Thirdly, I will reward myself for improvements, and for achieving smaller milestones. I believe tangible and intangible incentives can be important drivers in a development process, and can act as a catalyst to further the process. Lastly, I will seek continuous improvement because building and improving competencies is not an activity, but an ongoing process.


I learned from the MIT leadership article that leadership is personal and developmental. Also, to evolve as a leader, one needs to work with the strengths that one possesses, while continuously working to boost and expand other strengths to successfully navigate an organization in today’s dynamic market place. I believe learning is an eternal process, and great leaders have proven that time and time again. Mark Zuckerberg still takes lessons for public speaking after building a multibillion dollar empire. Anne Mulcahy took finance lessons when she was promoted as a CEO of Xerox.

I believe periodic monitoring and measuring of improvement/development is a really important process. I will measure my improvements by defining metrics to measure performance, devising methods to collect and organize data, comparing myself with role models, and tracking the improvements on a regular basis.

Determine metrics to measure improvement: I will devise metrics which will include a list of goals and objectives, such as inner needs and motives, short-term career progression, and long-term career goals. The metrics will include developmental needs, and how the needs are aligned with my aspirations. For instance, my developmental metrics will include how delegation will help me empower people and focus more on my high-value tasks, how being assertive will help me to be a more effective communicator, and how being a rational thinker will help me to do the right things even if they are unpleasant but oriented towards greater good.

Develop methods to collect and organize data: In an excel sheet, I will record data related to hours I save by delegating tasks, the number of rational decisions I make, etc. Data in the excel sheet will help me understand how delegation and effectivity of a leader are correlated, and how being a rational thinker can help enhance productivity of my division. Also through pivot tables, I will extract the significance of the data in visual format which will further aid in my assessment of the improvement.

Comparison with role models: I believe comparing myself with role models in the organization will help me to benchmark myself against those leaders. This will help me to do a gap analysis of my capabilities, and further help to effectively assess my development process.


Track the improvement: I will conduct a monthly review of my goals, and the progress that I make. I will use tools such as track-n-graph, milestone planner, and a to-do-list to track improvements. I believe regular review of progress is really important since it will guide me to assess reality, understand the opportunities to improve further, and decide the way forward.

To sum up, as Peter Drucker aptly said, “Do not try to change yourself—you are unlikely to succeed, work to improve the way you perform.”

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