How do I determine where I, or someone on my team, should concentrate development efforts?

There are several places to look to come up with good ideas on areas to focus development efforts:

- Personal knowledge

- Achievement orientation and impact and influence competencies

- Performance appraisal feedback

- Information from others

- 360-degree feedback data or employee survey results

- The organization's core competencies

- Personal goals and aspirations

Tell Me More

Personal Knowledge. Development activities can focus on two areas: improving areas of deficiency and enhancing existing strengths. Research on successful development programs consistently comes to the same conclusion: People and organizations benefit more from building on strengths than from shoring up weaknesses. Based on your own knowledge of skills that you or your employees are particularly good or bad at, or information from past performance appraisals, you can identify a strength to be enhanced further or a shortcoming that needs developmental attention.

Achievement Orientation and Impact and Influence Competencies. Several research studies, including those carried out by MIT, the consulting firm Hay/McBer, and Lucent/Bell Labs, confirm that there are two competencies that regularly predict success in organizational life more than any others: "Achievement Orientation" and "Impact and Influence." Development of these two areas should always be considered high priority since they are confirmed predictors of success.

Performance Appraisal Feedback. What did the last performance appraisal say? What were the significant strengths and areas for improvement noted? These are prime sources for development efforts.

Information from Others. Other people with whom you or the individual regularly interact are terrific sources of good data about where development efforts might be well placed. If you have a trusted friend in the organization, ask him what suggestions he might make for your development.

360-Degree Feedback Data or Employee Survey Results. If your organization uses a 360-degree feedback process, the information that it provides will be one of the best sources for suggestions on where development efforts should be placed. If your company conducts employee satisfaction surveys, the results may point out areas where you (and other managers) need to do more work.

The Organization's Core Competencies. If your company has identified competencies that senior management expects everyone to display, these are a primary source of development ideas. Which of the competencies are you most a master of? In which of them do you demonstrate the smallest amount of ability? The competencies you identify are the top targets for development efforts.

Personal Goals and Aspirations. It's your life, it's your career. Where do you want to go with it? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you need to do to go where you want to be? That's where you should concentrate some development efforts.

Why is the achievement orientation competency so important?

Achievement orientation is almost universally identified as one of the two most important predictors of success in complex, sophisticated organizations. Other terms that are often used for this competency include results "orientation," "taking initiative," and "entrepreneur-ship."

How do you know achievement orientation when you see it? Here are some behavioral indicators.

Achievement Orientation Checklist

- Sets challenging goals for self and others. "Challenging goals" is a term consistently tossed around. But what is a "challenging" goal? It's not just doing the job more cheaply, faster, better. The operational definition is that a truly challenging goal is one where the goal-setter recognizes that there's only a fifty-fifty chance of achieving the target. A challenging goal is a real stretchit's not a gimme.

- Takes sustained action in the face of obstacles or adversity. We all encounter obstacles. A person with a high drive for results or achievement orientation will keep getting back up even after life has knocked her down a couple of times.

- Does more than asked. Going beyond the call of duty is one of the leading indicators of a high degree of achievement orientation. The person with a strong results-focus looks for opportunities to do extra work to help others and to make a project move along more quickly.

- Looks for places where problems might arise and fixes them. Achievement orientation doesn't mean merely solving problems. It means actively looking for places where problems might arise and taking action before the problems occur.

- Actively seeks out interesting projects to work on when the current assignment is completed. Even in the midst of a challenging and demanding assignment, the individual with a high achievement orientation actively scouts out the next assignment.

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