Coaching and Goals
When working with a coach, there’s usually an expectation that you’ll be working on some goals
throughout the course of the coaching engagement. You may have an overall goal or goals for the
engagement and you may also have specific goals that arise for a coaching session. Your coaching
session will often start with the question of “what would you like to work on today?” which is really
asking what you’d like to achieve for the session. It’s worth considering that not all goals are created
equal – some types of goals are more effective than others.
One thing to consider is how ready you are to change to achieve the goals you’re setting for yourself.
Are you genuinely committed to the goal? Is it your goal, or someone else’s goal? If it’s not a goal
you’re genuinely and directly committed to, it’s less likely you’ll be successful without some clever
strategies to support you. If the goal itself isn’t important, is it in service of something else? A goal
that isn’t personally congruent for you may lead to a decreased sense of wellbeing.
So why are goals important? They direct and focus our attention to relevant activities and may also
support energy, motivation and persistence when the going gets tough. How effective goals are in
coaching will depend on things such as how important you consider the goal to be, and your sense of
your ability to achieve the goal. If goals are too challenging, or not challenging enough, motivation
can be reduced.
It's worth considering types of goals and their effectiveness. Many people have heard of SMART
goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable. Relevant and Time-bound (or substitute the words you’re
familiar with). But goals are not the only way of defining goals, and in some circumstances,
may not be helpful.
Approach vs Avoidance Goals
One of the distinctions it’s worth considering is whether your goal is an “approach” goal or an
“avoidance” goal. A simple way of distinguishing between these is that an approach goal is generally
worded positively – something you’d like to work towards, do more of, or get better at. An
avoidance goal is one where you’d like to reduce or do less of. To use a practical example, an
approach goal might be “to live a healthier more active life” and an avoidance goal might be to “be
less stressed”. Research suggests that approach goals are more effective.
Learning (Mastery) Goals vs Performance Goals
Learning Goals focus on the development or mastery of skills and capabilities, rather than on the
outcome. An example of this might be a world -class tennis player who’s focused on improving the
quality of her backhand or the accuracy of her serves. In contrast, a performance goal for our tennis
player might focus on winning the match.
Competing or Conflicting Goals
One way your coach may be able to assist is to support you in uncovering where perhaps you might
have goals that are competing or conflicting with each other. For example, you might have a strong
commitment to increasing the time you spend in one on ones with your team, and that might
directly compete with your goal to tick off more items on your to do list.
So whatever the nature of the goals you want to work on, it’s worth considering the following
Is it your goal or someone else’s goal for you?
How committed are you to the goal?
How challenging is this goal for you?
Is it a goal that encourages you to work towards a desired outcome (approach) or to move
away from a less desirable outcome (avoidance)
Is it a learning goal or a performance goal?
Is this goal competing against something else?
While your coach can help you to refine your goals during coaching sessions, it’s worth giving some
thought to what you’re actually wanting to achieve ahead of your session.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you achieve your goals.