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Personal Development Plan: Make your Vision a Reality!

“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” — Benjamin Franklin

To be successful in your career as well as in your private life, you should be aware of your strengths, talents, weaknesses, and opportunities concerning your personality, your skills, and your values. That's what all successful managers have in common. Your profile should match today’s requirements in business! Assess your potential realistically using validated tests!

Figure 1: Making your vision a reality

Find out your strengths, weaknesses, and future potentials (concerning your competencies, values, and personality traits) by taking folloowing tests: 

What all successful managers have in common

Be aware of the fact that even the most successful managers like Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and many entrepreneurs of Germany‘s Hidden Champions were once in the same situation as you are now! They started with a vision that was neither wishful thinking nor a dream nor an extension of past practices into the future! Their vision had exceptional energizing power and served as a compass in life. The power of their vision came from

  • being aware of their strengths and weaknesses concerning their competencies (skills).
  • gaining synergy which has been provided by their personality traits and values. 

How are these three elements interconnected? Consider the following example: Generating creative ideas may be an important skill. However, if you lack perseverance (a personality trait), this skill will not lead to emotionally or financially rewarding results. The same applies to your values. If you are not honest (a value) with your customers, they will disregard your creativity since trust is of the essence in a risky undertaking. Therefore, a synergistic combination of values, skills, and traits is necessary. 

The "Perfect Match"

A key question remains: which competencies, values, and personality traits are important or relevant? There is an easy answer in theory, but it is extremely difficult in reality: Your strengths must match the requirements. If you follow a general management career, the requirements come from the strategy of the company you want to join. Please note that the culture of a company represents its personality! 

If you pursue an entrepreneurial career, your personal vision is decisive and can be created only by yourself. Such considerations are the subject of our personal coaching. The basic idea behind it is shown in the next figure: 

Perfect Match

Figure 2: Pursuing the perfect match of requirements and your personalty (values, traits, and skills)

Create your vision!

Why Vision?

The importance of a vision can be illustrated by two statements. One is by Hellen Keller. She was a famous American author who lost her sight and her hearing in early childhood. Once, she said,

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."

 The other statement was made by Mark Twain, an American writer, humourist, entrepreneur, and publisher. His statement: 

„The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."

Furthermore, there are various practical reasons for having a vision. It directs your effort and attention towards activities that are essential. Consequently, it helps you avoid irrelevant actions and hence saves time (reduces stress). It...

... gives you the feeling of being successful,

... provides you with energy,

... boosts your self-esteem,

... gives you a sense of purpose,

... supports learning (discovering new task-related knowledge),

.. has a positive impact on your emotions,

... helps you find supporters, friends, and partners,

... will earn you respect and admiration from others (as a role model).

Definition: What is a vision

A vision is not wishful thinking, an intention, an illusion, or future actions. It describes a future (!) situation that does not exist now. It should meet the SMART principle (specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and time-bound). Attractiveness is particularly important. How do I do it? Describe the future situation once you have achieved your vision (imagine you are already in this situation). Use all your senses to describe the situation: 

I see ...

feel ...

hear ...

say ... 

Others (friends, colleagues, partners) see, feel, hear, say to me, tell to their friends, etc.

Note: A vision is a creation, not a prediction!!!

Instruction: How to create a vision?

A popular method for creating a vision is to take a perspective from the end of your life. 

  • What kind of life have you led?
  • What principles and values have guided your decisions and actions? 
  • What benefits have those closest to you - family, trusted colleagues, friends, and business associates – derived from your relationship with them? 
  • What were your major achievements?
  • What was your contribution?
  • What legacy have you left behind? 

Careful and purposeful consideration of these questions can create a vision and help shape you as an individual and a leader. 

Discover your core (authentic) values!

Importance of values 

Values have the same motivating power as a vision. Through values, leaders take initiative and mobilize people for participation in the process of change, encouraging a sense of collective identity and efficacy. Values are general concepts of what is right, worthwhile, or desirable. They serve as criteria for the selection of actions, judgment, and preference. Values determine people’s hopes, fears, and expectations, which deeply influence their attitudes and day-to-day behavior. Values are comparable to lubricants in human relationships.

Identifying your authentic values

The following list consists of around 50 common values. Select eight of them that you consider particularly important for you. Nevertheless, because these values are very abstract terms, it is necessary to define them operationally. For instance, what do you mean by honesty, openness, courage, etc.? Describe a situation in which you had the feeling of honesty, openness, courage, or fairness. Transfer your (defined) values into the pdf file, which can be downloaded here, and fill it out as shown in figure 2.

  • Trustworthiness, integrity, honesty, reliability, loyalty, modesty
  • Respect, politeness, dignity, tolerance, acceptance, empathy
  • Personal growth, achievement, power, excellence, accountability
  • Fairness, impartiality, equity, openness, humour, harmony, justice
  • Care, responsibility, balance, public welfare, friendship, service to others
  • Citizenship, courage, commitment, foresight, empathy, maturity, objectivity
  • Enjoyment, aesthetics, sensual pleasures, delight, amusement, vitality
  • Power, influence, authority, independence, autonomy, status
  • Competition, challenge, performance, victory, recognition, fitness
  • Other ... 

The logic of the table is like a matrix being applied in a tournament. Compare every couple of values, for instance, a and c, and enter an c into the matrix when you consider c to be more important than a. Repeat this procedure for every combination of two values. As a result, you will find three or four values that are really important to you. This procedure is necessary since most people consider values important based on their social desirability or popularity.  

Figure 2: How to discover one's authentic values

Develop an action plan to make your vision a success!

Test results

Once you have taken the two tests (personality and competencies) and determined your authentic values, you are in a position to work out your personal development plan (PDP). You may start with a rough outline as shown in Figure 1.

Your most important personality traits and values (those with the highest score) give you energy and determine whether your vision is realistic (achievable). Since traits and values are hard to change or learn, consider them enabling or limiting factors. For instance, if you lack resilience, enthusiasm, and creativity, you should not consider forming a startup in a turbulent high-tech environment; if you score low on sincere trust, you should not strive for a job in a technological business-to-business context. 

The strengths and weaknesses of your personality, your values, and your competencies are all based on your self-image. To make it more reliable, other tools are needed, such as 360-degree feedback or behavioral event interviewing. Your PDP should undergo a critical examination by an independent coach in terms of logical consistency, feasibility, and success prospects. In this part, you get feedback and additional ideas for implementing your PDP successfully. 

Instructions for your PDP

If your vision is entrepreneurial, your intermediate goal could be working out a business plan for an innovative idea. If your vision is to move ahead towards a general management career in a company, your intermediate goal could be making a contribution to solving a pressing problem (finance, technology, organization, marketing, etc.). We recommend you start with a PDP for your area of responsibility, as indicated in Figure 3.

The following instructions should be helpful:

  • Define your area of responsibility (input and output, sales, and costs).
  • Describe the core process (including activity-based costs).
  • What are the key success factors?
  • Which KPIs will you apply?
  • Set goals (based on the KPIs) according to the SMART principle.
  • Which financial and material resources are needed to achieve the goals?
  • Which competencies (strengths) do you require?
  • Which weaknesses do you have to overcome?
  • Which competencies do your team members need?
  • How will you develop these competencies, and what are the deadlines?
  • How will you measure progress and results?

Figure 3: Connecting your Personal Development Plan with Business

Business-related Personality Test (BPT)

A new personality test

There are many personality tests. Most of them lack a clear relationship to business tasks of managers. This was the reason to develop such a personality test. It is the Business-related Personality Test (BPT) by Waldemar Pelz. It has been validated with a sample of 31,373 participants and meets required quality criteria (objectivity, validity, reliability, and standardisation). You will find details following this Link: BPT. Figure 4 gives an overview.

Figure 4: Business-related Personality Test (BPT) by Waldemar Pelz

Interrelation of Personality and Business

The logic of the BPT is as follows: One managerial function is planning. Effective planning requires a clear vision and developing a strategy. A manager will perform this task particularly well when his traits are creativity, curiosity, optimism, and ambition. These traits will also satisfy his Achievement motive and give him a lot of positive energy, which in turn increases his effort of strategic planning. Of cause, a manager could “purchase” a strategy from a consulting company. However, in this case his role is those of a mercenary and not of a enthusiastic entrepreneur with perseverance. 

Most important management competencies (top 20)

Definition: What is a competence?

Competence is a combination of skills and knowledge that is necessary to accomplish a specific task efficiently (doing things right) and effectively (doing the right things) or to dominate an explicit challenge. How well a professional or manager masters a competence can be seen from the result (measured by key figures such as productivity and profitability).

Which competencies matter most in business?

The following 20 management competencies were selected according to two criteria: The first principle is the frequency with which these skills are used in the recruitment, selection, and development of high-potential employees (e.g., assessment centres, management audits, or recruitment interviews). The companies examined included "Most Admired Companies" from the Fortune 500 and medium-sized world market leaders from Germany (so-called Hidden Champions). The second principle is how well these competencies can predict the future performance of candidates (technical term: predictive validity). The 20 competencies were validated based on samples of 23,598 participants and met the required quality criteria (objectivity, validity, reliability, and standardization).

The list (without behavioural descriptions)

  1. Personal initiative
  2. Trust and reliability 
  3. Personal appearance
  4. Learning ability
  5. Emotional intelligence 
  6. Analytical thinking 
  7. Dealing with opportunities and risks 
  8. Setting objectives
  9. Decision-making and problem solving
  10. Focusing on priorities
  11. Being a role model
  12. Change management
  13. Conflict management
  14. Team management 
  15. Implementation skills
  16. Effective communication
  17. Effective feedback 
  18. Taking responsibility
  19. Learning from mistakes
  20. Self-control


Note: Each of the 20 competencies is operationalized by five to eight behavioral descriptions. Example: "Being a role model"

  • He (or she) means what he (or she) says.
  • Stands for clear values. 
  • Has profound expertise.
  • Is open to criticism and new ideas.
  • Is clear and consistent (with integrity) in what he/she says and does.
  • Shows courage and civil courage.
  • Behaves in a way that deserves respect.