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How to Know If Your Leadership Development Plan Is Getting You Anywhere

There is only one way to make progress toward your goals, and that is to take action. But you can take action in many ways, taking steps in any number of directions. How do you know if you're getting where you want to go?

"Which way?" by kryshen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Just like driving, you need to set markers and waypoints along your path that will give you feedback about the progress you're making. Are you going the right direction? Are you moving at the speed/pace you'd hoped to? Are there reasons to stop, slow down, or detour? Some indicators will be pre-planned, part of your chosen course.

Routinely recurring events and circumstances can work like mileage markers, telling you how close you are to your destination. For mid-sized firms, where attorney turnover is expensive but doesn't result in an acute crisis situation, associate departure might be one of those markers. Larger gaps between departures might indicate progress toward a more inclusive, supportive, and collaborative firm culture.

Other tools can function like a rest stop, offering a chance to reflect on where you've been (and make sure you're still headed in the right direction). One such tool is an employee survey. This is a deliberate stop to look at the roadside map and make sure "You are here" is a place you want to be. You'll get a chance to both confirm your progress and learn something about where you are. Using these deliberate stops can give you reasons to detour.

On your way to a new firm culture, staff survey results may show a need to address more pressing issues of perceived firm indifference to a trending social issue. You may realize you need to change or reframe the firm's messaging in order to demonstrate your commitment to your team. Or, you may realize the firm's articulated support for certain social issues is perceived by your staff as an empty promise. Your detour may be a whole new adventure, but one that informs and enhances your journey.

But your progress cannot be measured by only looking outside. You have to be mindful of your personal progress on the journey. On our metaphorical drive, you have to know whether you're tired, or hungry, or uniquely interested in some aspect of the trip that really just interests you. Change, and the practice that makes it stick, takes energy. You can't push your limits indefinitely, and sometimes you need to take a break to let your mind do the unconscious work of consolidating your gains.

Often, you will find yourself with a need to pursue a particular aspect of your charted growth. If you started by developing a leadership constellation, one aspect of that constellation may speak to you in especially strong way. Periodically indulging in that desire to dive deep can keep you motivated to see the journey through.

No matter the waypoints and navigation tools you use, you need to keep yourself fueled and you need to ensure you don't overtax your vehicle. Accountability makes that happen. There are several ways to do this. One is to set routines for self-reflection and honest self-talk. Another is to identify a supporter or support network within the firm that will offer the sort of objective support required. Or you can enlist an outside supporter or coach to offer the dispassionate and challenging -- but supportive -- perspective that will ensure you stay true to the goals you have set for yourself and your firm.



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