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11 Professional Development Goals For Managers To Strive For

Professional development goals for managers benefit the whole team. Learn how you can put yourself on a path toward growth and success.

By Fellow.app  •   August 5, 2022  •   9 min read

When you have a growth mindset, you understand that all skills can improve with action and time. That might lead you to start setting professional development goals for managers, which is great. These goals can improve your abilities and skill set while benefiting your whole team. That’s because you’re a team leader, cheerleader, confidant, and mentor, and great leaders actively seek ways to do better in all these roles. Below, you’ll learn all about professional development goals, what to include in your development plan, and tips for setting goals that stick.   

What is a professional development goal?

Professional development goals are individual objectives that can help you better yourself and move forward in your career. These objectives could include signing up for a training program to improve your leadership skills or networking more often. Any steps you can take toward learning new skills can be professional development goals.

Coming up with a professional development plan can help you reach your goals. Your development plan should include steps you can take toward achieving your goals. This creates a realistic timeline to hold yourself accountable for, say, completing that online leadership course to help your team members improve their time management. You can also create a development plan for any other managers you work with and guide them through the plan.

Achieve your professional development goals

Stay on top of your goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool.

11 professional development goals for managers

Below are some professional development goals for managers you can potentially include in your development plans.

1Inspire positivity 

A  manager can set the whole mood for their team, so take a temperature check. A goal could be doing a better job of noticing when morale is low and coming up with ways to increase positivity. You could try hosting team-building games so that everyone can have fun in a low-stakes setting. Another way to spread positivity is to acknowledge everyone’s stressors and learn techniques to better manage your own stress. This way, you lead by example. 

2Figure out your career path 

Managers play a big part in helping others build their career paths. That makes it understandable – but a mistake! – to not put that same time and effort into your own path. Plus, if you’re genuinely interested in working toward your larger goals, your team can pick up on that as motivation. People can feel when someone is excited to show up to work every day instead of simply clocking in and out. 

3Offer more valuable feedback 

You should get good at offering all the different types of feedback. All your feedback should be valuable and rooted in trying to help someone become the best version of themselves. So look at how you provide feedback to your team members. Are you moving the team in the direction that you want? Or is the feedback getting lost in translation and leading to more confusion than solutions? 

Tips for improving your feedback include asking team members questions and opening up a dialogue to show that feedback can be a collaborative process. And it’s important to understand that everyone learns differently, so don’t be afraid to switch up how you give and get feedback.

According to Karen Hebert-Maccaro, General Manager of Education at Morning Brew, on the Supermanagers podcast, “the act of management is so many simultaneous little tasks, you’re building people up and you’re motivating. And you’re setting strategy, and you’re delegating and you’re giving feedback, that the act of management is complex and challenging.”

4Take on the role of a mentor 

Your team should come to you for guidance and support. That means you should make it clear that you’re more than their source for tasks – you’re here for them as a mentor. Try getting to know your team members’ strengths, pain points, and what they’re looking for in their careers. This way, when they come to you for career guidance, you can help move them forward. 

5Host productive meetings 

A productive meeting is a great use of your team’s time, and running them right is a major managerial skill. When you actively work to make your meetings more productive with a well-thought-out and collaborative meeting agenda, there’s nothing your team can’t do. You should also go in knowing your meeting objectives – why you’re meeting in the first place and what you hope to get out of it. 

Common reasons for meetings include planning, problem-solving, brainstorming, and decision-making. Meetings should not be quick status updates that leave attendees wondering: should this meeting be an email? Save those for – you guessed it – email.

6Master the art of the one-on-one 

Understanding how to run a one-on-one meeting is key for guiding your team members in the right direction. And this goal is different from anything about other types of meetings because one-on-ones are, well, one of a kind. They’re a time for your team members to (mostly) run the show and share their own goals and feedback. When done right, these meetings can lead to better working relationships, trust, and support. 

In a lot of meetings, you might be steering the ship, but mastering the one-on-one means knowing when to speak and when to listen. Your team members should come prepared with questions for you and jot down talking points in the meeting agenda. Make it a professional development goal of yours to be comfortable with your team members taking control.

7Be empathetic 

Empathy as a manager can help you become a better problem-solver while helping your employees feel seen and heard. Think about it: if you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can more easily work with them when they’re having a hard time. Empathy goes a long way since your team will more likely feel supported and cared for, which, in turn, means a happier team. 

8Work on your listening skills

The soft skill of active listening may not immediately come to mind when you think of professional development goals. But knowing how to truly listen can help with your empathy, and it makes you a better communicator. The best managers know that communication is a two-way street. 

A good manager listens just as much as they speak. This way, when someone comes to you with feedback or frustrations, you can actually hear what they’re saying. They can then process the information and come up with a solution that works for everyone.

9Show everyone why time management matters

When you’re a manager, you don’t just focus on being your own time manager — you help your team better manage their time too. So make it an objective to show why time management matters, demonstrate what good time management looks like, and prioritize tasks when you assign them. When you actively let your team know where to focus their energy, you can reduce the chances of people getting sidetracked. 

10Pump up the motivation 

Everyone has those days where it can be a challenge to find the motivation you need. When you make it a professional development goal to be consistently motivating and enthusiastic, your team might be more likely to check all its boxes. 

Always tell your team when they hit a project out of the park, and create a company culture where you celebrate big and small wins. This can spark the desire to keep going even when a task is boring or tough. 

11Hold yourself accountable 

A good manager holds their team accountable, and a great manager holds themself accountable too. It shows respect and humility when you can take accountability for your actions. Plus, your team might want to see that you aren’t above making mistakes because, at the end of the day, you’re a person too. Plus, honesty goes a long way toward building trust between you and your team. 

Tips on how to set up leadership development goals

Now, you know some goals you can focus on to improve your management skills – but goal-setting can be a process. Setting professional development goals involves big steps such as identifying your strengths and weaknesses and measuring your progress. Below, you’ll learn some tips to help make your goals a reality. 

1Identify your superpowers and areas of improvement 

When you’re putting together your development plan, you’ll have to take an honest look at where you rock it and where you could improve. This will help you narrow down where to focus your energy – you just can’t do everything at once. And since it can be hard to look at yourself objectively, you can ask your leadership or a mentor for help. 

2Pick one or two areas to focus on

Once you’ve got your list of strengths and weaknesses, prioritize one or two areas to focus on improving. This is part of creating SMART goals, which is a method for setting meaningful professional goals. In this case, SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You can see from “specific” that picking one area to focus on is the first step in being SMART about your goals. You’ll gear your efforts toward one thing instead of overwhelming yourself with a whole bunch, which would lead to nothing getting done. 

3Set goals and a roadmap

Once you’ve found your areas of improvement, you can set specific goals for how to improve. When being specific with SMART, you’ll also want to be clear about what you’re hoping to achieve. For instance, if you’ve identified time management as a weakness, then you can set goals such as taking a course to help managers prioritize tasks. 

After that, your roadmap to improving this skill should include practicing what you’ve learned. Try practicing anything you learn on yourself before trying it on others. A roadmap with clear directions will get you where you need to be faster than just winging it. 

4Measure your progress

It’s all well and good to identify areas for improvement, set up goals, and create a plan. But you’ll also want to measure your progress along the way. This can help you see if what you’re doing to reach your goals is working. If it isn’t, you’ll know to pivot to another strategy. 

If you’re working on the long-term goal of better time management, then check in with yourself weekly to see if you’re on the right track. This could mean seeing how much your way of assigning tasks after taking that course is speeding up your timeline. You can compare progress between current and previous tasks to see if your team is hitting deadlines more quickly.

5Take it from the top

Once you’ve set a professional development goal and achieved it, you should restart the SMART goal process from the top. You can always improve as a leader, so look over your areas for improvement again. And then, keep working on being the best leader for your team. 

Work SMARTer, not harder 

When managers work on themselves, they can improve, and so can their team – it’s a win-win. You can return to this article whenever you need development goal ideas and some tips on how to set up goals. You can also try Fellow’s objectives and key results (OKR) tools to make goal setting easy. You’ll be able to note, define, and keep track of your objectives and the progress you’re making. It’s a fast path toward checking all your professional development boxes. 

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