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Why Executives Need Performance Development Plans (PDPs)

Executive Participation in Performance Development Plans (PDPs) Sets the Model

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Executive participation in performance development planning.

Executive participation in performance development planning.

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When an organization adopts a method for accomplishing a particular goal, one common question deals with whether executives need to participate in the process. In the instance of performance development planning and the resultant document, the Performance Development Plan (PDP), executive leaders are key participants.

Executives model how to create a Performance Development Plan (PDP), for their reporting staff. They create the framework from which the goals and expectations of all department members will flow. Executives demonstrate how a performance development planning meeting can most effectively proceed to engage, empower, and hold participants accountable for their commitments, accomplishments and contributions. Executives give reporting staff the courtesy of a periodic time period during which their attention is focused exclusively on the staff person’s development, goals, dreams, needs, and accomplishments.

Most importantly, performance development planning, documented in an executive PDP, is a method to encourage executives to keep both their accountabilities and their ongoing personal and professional development on the front burner. It is not appropriate for an executive to blame staff members for failure to execute the departmental plan or achieve the team goals. Ultimately, the executive leader is responsible and accountable for all that happens – or not – within their area of responsibility. The PDP documents this process and expectation.

So, yes, I’m a supporter of executive participation in PDPs. Will that PDP look like that of other employees? Not necessarily. But, the fact of its existence and the participation of executives in this critical process is unquestionably significant. After all, why do PDPs exist at all? They exist so employees:

  • receive direction in a format that is understandable, measurable, concrete, and that documents accountability,
  • know exactly what is expected of them,
  • are accountable for accomplishing these expectations,
  • continue to grow and develop both their interpersonal and their professional skills,
  • receive periodic focused and personal attention and feedback about their performance from a person who is important to them - their boss, and
  • provide the company with necessary written documentation about an employee’s contribution and performance.

Keep in mind that, perpetually, the number one reason employees don’t do what you want them to do is: they don’t know for sure what it is that you want them to do. You can see why PDPs might be the answer. Wouldn't you like this concrete framework for your work, too?

Story About Executive Participation in Expectations

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, in an executive office of a manufacturing company in Detroit, a CEO asked the proverbial question that executive leaders have been known to ask for all time. He said, “Why do I have to do what I ask my people to do? Why don’t they just do what I say?” It was the first time I encountered the question. And, it was the beginning of my long term dislike of the expression so often used by managers - "my people" - think about it.

It came from a man who understood and valued the power of employee engagement and empowerment long before the terms became popular. He hired me to help him figure it out. But, he struggled to run his firm in an empowering, participative manner and sent mixed messages to his employees, because he hoped the rules didn’t apply to him.

He later sold his firm for a figure in the hundreds of millions to a conglomerate that called all of its employees, “associates.” The purchasing firm employed a world renown consultant to help integrate the cultures of the companies it purchased long before the words “culture” or “mergers and acquisitions” were popularly in use.

Its associates (read VPs) had “associate” on their business card, but no one forgot for a moment - nor did customers - that they were really the “VP of xxx.” The conglomerate later went bankrupt, a victim of its overreaching ambition and its failure to execute. My original CEO, the man with the gut understanding of the environment that enabled people to contribute? He’s now retired and spends his time at various lake homes, jetting around the world, and organizing golf tournaments in Florida.

I tell you this story, one of many from twenty-five years of consulting, to emphasize an age old predicament. Must a CEO and executive leaders do what’s good for their employees or should the employees just do what they say? This question remains uppermost in any changes an organization adopts. Must executive leaders “walk the talk” or does the fact of their approbation abstain them from participation?

Let’s continue using Performance Development Planning as an example. Do executive leaders need PDPs. Here’s why executive leaders need a Performance Development Plan (PDP).

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