Setting Effective Goals

Although setting effective goals isn’t something you are likely to do for your coachee (unless you are in a work environment where you may set goals for your direct reports), it is likely that you will need to help your coachee in this process. Having a good understanding of the role of goal setting within coaching and what makes an effective goal is therefore essential to being a good coach.

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Why are goals important in coaching?

Goals set by the coachee define what they want to achieve, both in the bigger picture of life and also in the coaching session itself. Goals may be long, medium or short term goals or a combination of all three and will help to determine what actions the coachee will take.


A coachee may have a long term goal of running a marathon in two year’s time. Their medium term goal may be to run a half marathon in one year’s time, and their short term goal may be to run a 5k race in 3 months. With these in mind this person may set a goal for their coaching session of putting together a weekly training schedule that will help them achieve these goals.

Setting effective goals include

  • those that are owned and committed to by the coachee and not imposed by others. This may be difficult in the work setting where certain objectives have to be achieved however the greater the ownership by the coachee the more likely they will be attained. In the work setting the overall goal may be set by the organisation but scope given to the employee as to how they will achieve it.
  • ones based on an individual’s values…i.e. those things that are most important to them.
  • SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Limited. An example of a SMART goal for a coaching session would be ‘By the end of the coaching session to have identified 3 actions I can take by the end of the week to help me feel more organised’
  • written in the present tense e.g. I am fit and go to the gym for an hour 3 days each week. This phrasing isn’t always appropriate but can be a powerful way of focusing the mindset on action and achievement.

Recommended Resources:

How To Set And Achieve A Goal takes you through much more than I can write on my website. You also get 9 worksheets (either paper or on your computer) to make any dreamer become a doer.

Goals On Track is a great piece of goal setting software to help you stay focused throughout the day.

Goal Mapping: How to Turn Your Dreams into Realities by Brian Mayne (Paperback - 19 Jan 2006) 

Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals (Worksmart) by Michael S Dobson (Paperback - 1 April 2008)

See Also:-

10 Tips For Effective Goal Setting
Preparing For Coaching
More Coaching Skills
Coaching Tools

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