One of the key leadership functions of any practice group leader (“PGL”) is assessing their practice group members’ professional development (“PD”) needs and identifying key PD opportunities. This is critical in order to ensure that the group is performing at its highest level and meeting its business goals.   

A misstep we often see PGLs make is that while they consider their people’s individual feedback, they fail to connect that feedback to the business needs of the group, or vice versa. This results in programming that either does not support the group’s overall performance goals or is poorly attended, wasting both precious time and resources. 

If you are looking to gain clarity about what PD programming would support your group’s business performance and align with your group members’ needs, follow this three-step process:

1.  Explore which PD opportunities support your group’s business goals

In order to understand your group’s PD needs, you first need to understand the correlation between your group’s business goals and the PD needs of your people. Answering the following questions will get you started: 

  1. What professional skills from the following categories must your members possess in order to support successful execution of your group’s business strategy? Rate each skill’s importance on a scale from 1 (mission-critical must-have) to 5 (nice-to-have). 
    • Substantive legal skills:
    • Practice management skills:
    • People management skills:
    • Leadership skills:
    • Business skills: 
  2. For each skill rated between 1 and 3, determine how your members are performing now. Use the rating scale: A (Excellent), B (Good), C (Sufficient), and D (Poor). 
  3. For all skills rated below B, ask what should be happening (as opposed to the current performance)? What are the goals and success metrics for each of those skills?
  4. What prevents the goals from being achieved?
    • Is the gap between the current and the desired performance caused by knowledge, skills, or attitude shortfalls?
    • How much of the gap is caused by the environment, a process, or a technical factor?

2.  Explore your group members’ individual needs

Your next step is to gather feedback from your group members about the skills they find most important to successful performance in their roles. This can be done via email, in a survey (like SurveyMonkey), or at your next PG meeting. 

Use the following questions to gather insights from your people:

  1. What are the main knowledge areas and skills required for your role?
  2. List any factors that might be negatively impacting your effectiveness in your role right now?
  3. What would help you to perform in your role most successfully?
  4. What PD opportunities did you take advantage of in the past to support your professional growth? How effective was each and why?

Once you gather this feedback from your group (ideally from at least 65% of the group members), review each response and begin to identify common themes.

3.  Determine the most important PD opportunities

Now that you have clarity about which PD skills are key to your group’s business success and which skills have been identified as important by your group’s members, determine the top five development needs you’d like to focus on this year (more than five may get too overwhelming). 

Next, for each development need identified, begin exploring what type of PD programming would support the outcomes you are looking for. Use the following questions to guide you:

  1. What type of program would most support effective development of these skills – one-time live training, training series, on-demand video training curriculum, facilitated discussions, group coaching, individual coaching? 
    • To answer this question, consider the correlation between knowledge and practice required to achieve improvement in each skill. If not a lot of practice is required (mostly new knowledge-based), then one-time live workshops, webinars, training series, or video training curriculum can work well. If more practice is required, then the more opportunities individuals have to apply new knowledge and practice their skills the better. In this case, facilitated discussions, group or individual coaching works best.  
  2. What is the target audience for the program – level of seniority, number of people?
  3. Have they received any development opportunities in the past? What kind? What was the result?
  4. What, if anything, could derail the successful launch of this program? What issues/obstacles could we run into?

Set up your group for success

While this process is more involved than just throwing some training session together, if your goal is to develop a solid program that delivers actual results, asking these questions is the key to making it happen. By asking the right questions, you’ll have a better understanding of both your people’s desires, as well as your group’s overall business needs. 

Should you need any support in helping you identify your group’s PD needs, please reach out to us at Our team will be happy to help.