When you're revving to go, goal-setting can feel like an abstract place to start. As coaches, we understand how frustrating it is to work toward an unclear goal. But we promise you that it gets easier once you get started.
We’ve compiled a handy guide to help you get a headstart with some coaching goals examples and a free template to guide you. Now there are the concrete first steps you’ve been looking for!
The point of coaching
Let’s start with the basics. Why does anyone need coaching? Coaching improves an individual’s ability in a particular area, whether that’s business, life, health, or something else. Whatever our coaching style, we’re there at the forefront to support this transformational experience for our clients.
To do this successfully, we need to set goals to measure our progress. If the goal is improvement in a lifestyle area, for instance, measuring our progress determines the value of our service to our clients. But because lifestyle improvements are difficult to measure quantitatively, measuring how often we’re setting and accomplishing goals can provide this insight.
What is a goal?
A goal is a desired result, or an idea, for the future. It’s achieved when a person or group of people commit to planning and working towards the idea by overcoming habits or resolving situations that impede the desired result and actively working towards reaching the goal. Most importantly, goals are action-based — they require continuous effort to achieve.
Goals aren’t visions or dreams. While all three share the same theme of aspiration, dreams exist in the imagination and function as inspiration. Visions are the big picture or the final destination that comes from completing a set of goals.
Goals come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps our clients want to build confidence or need help with time management or decision-making. Maybe they’re interested in career development or leadership.
Whether our goals are long-term or short-term or have to do with work or personal life, we must develop an action plan and chart out the next steps to make them attainable.
How to set a goal
A great methodology for goal-setting in our coaching sessions is SMART goals, and using a template is an excellent way to define them. Remember that a crucial difference between goals and dreams is that goals are actionable and measurable. To set up an effective and measurable goal, make it SMART:
- Specific: Understand the scope of what we want to achieve. Ask the following questions:
Who’s involved in the process?
What do we want to accomplish?
What’s my time frame?
Where does my goal take place?
Why’s this goal important?
- Measurable: Effective coaching and goal-setting involve tracking our progress. We can do so by assigning numbers or metrics to hit, or by scheduling regular check-ins to see what action steps were completed throughout the process.
- Attainable: While it’s great to aim high, be realistic. Ask whether the goal is attainable with the resources on hand, including time, money, and skills. If not, adjust the goal to sync with what’s available for progress. A great goal should stretch and challenge us, but not be impossible to attain.
- Relevant: If our goals aren't important or relevant to us, we’ll lack the motivation we need to meet them. Here are a few good questions to ask:
Does this goal seem worthwhile to long-term objectives?
Is this the best time to set out to achieve this?
Does this goal align with our other goals?
Are we the right people to be working on this?
Will this make progress toward our end goal?
- Time-bound: One of the biggest reasons people don’t meet their goals is that they don’t set deadlines. Without a deadline, it’s easy to get sidetracked in the journey. We can work backward to build a timeline for ourselves. Remember, the more defined each step is, the more incentive we’ll have to complete it. Set a reasonable timeline.
Together, these tips make up the SMART method of goal-setting. When we break down our goals into steps with deadlines, we make them manageable and trackable.
This method is great for turning a huge, seemingly insurmountable goal into something that can be slowly worked upon and met.
Our free template is specifically designed to help you set SMART goals and track progress — simply download the file and use it in your next session.
How not to set a goal: 3 frequent mistakes
Now that we know a good way to set achievable goals, here’re some common mistakes to avoid.
1. Don’t set too many goals at once
A good goal is measurable, achievable, and has deadlines to keep us accountable and moving forward. One way we can trip up is by setting too many goals at the same time.
This falls under attainability. Instead of trying to complete many different goals at once, we must take on only as much as we can, and finish what we’ve got.
2. Don’t set goals that aren’t challenging enough
Attaining goals can be a long-term process, so we must keep ourselves motivated. One way we lose interest is to set a goal that doesn’t challenge us. If the goals aren’t challenging enough, we should re-adjust deadlines or take on a little more daily work to balance our workload. Doing this ensures we’re working to our potential and the result feels like an achievement.
3. Don’t set unrealistic goals
Setbacks can be demotivating. When we begin setting goals, we may estimate inaccurately and set impractical deadlines, but don’t worry. Practice makes perfect. Sometimes you must adjust the plan to best reach the goals. Failure isn’t bad; we all learn from our mistakes. But let’s not set ourselves up for it.
Leadership coaching goals examples
If you’re ready to start setting goals, consider these examples and understand why they’re good or not so good:
- “Increase self-confidence”
This goal lacks specificity and is difficult to measure. We could improve this goal by changing it to be more task-oriented and setting a deadline. For example, “Be brave and introduce myself to five strangers this week” would better fit the bill.
- “Reduce staff churn by 15% in the next quarter”
This is an excellent goal. It’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound — truly a SMART way of goal-setting. Next, we’d break this down into actionable steps to get started.
- “Make more money”
This goal doesn’t have a time frame, and it doesn’t specify how much money is desirable. To improve this goal, we’d do a bit more thinking and develop some metrics and deadlines that fall within an achievable period. For example, “Earn an annual profit of X amount by the year 2025,” is a better target.
- “Increase sales”
While we have a specific goal here, we need to do more work to achieve a SMART framework. To make it measurable, determine a reasonable time frame, set a revenue target, and make sure there are enough resources to achieve the goal. Something like – “Increase sales by 30% in 6 months.”
Start setting goals today
When we’re struggling to come up with an achievable goal, we often only have to take our initial idea and add details. The SMART approach allows us to measure our goals, ensuring we’re on track for success with quantifiable results.
As coaches, we want to make it easy for our clients to reach their goals. Try Practice’s all-in-one client management system to get SMART with your goals.