What do you need for great goals?

Woman climbing through a windowCoaching has a wide range of definitions and approaches. One of the most prevalent understandings is that coaching comprises “a collaborative relationship formed between a coach and the coachee for the purpose of attaining professional or personal development outcomes which are valued by the coachee” (Spence & Grant, 2007, p. 185). Couched within this understanding is the importance of goal-focused activity with a clearly defined outcome. A person embarks on a coaching relationship because they are working through a challenge, or a goal that they want to attain, and they are looking for support to develop effective strategies and solutions (Grant, 2013). As such, a big part of development is setting effective goals that will enable a person to plan and identify clear directions to achieve their desired change.

Beyond the practical aspects of goal-setting, research indicates that setting and evaluating your own goals play a large part in sustained motivation and ongoing action, even in the face of emerging issues (Bandura, 1998). The process of associating attainment of stated (valued) goals with self-satisfaction has a direct influence on “how much effort [a coachee]… expend[s]; how long they persevere in the face of difficulties; and their resilience to failures … [and these contribute]  to performance accomplishments” (Bandura, 1998, p. 75).

There are several characteristics to effective goals … and some common mistakes. I’m now going to briefly discuss a few of them.

Challenging but attainable

Goals need to stretch you, but still be attainable .. within your stated timeframe. So, if you have never run a step in your life and are not in the best of shape, it is unlikely, for example, that you will attain a goal of winning a marathon in a month’s time. However, if you decide you would like to run a marathon in say, 4 hours, in a year’s time, and put together a training plan with milestone goals along the way, then you are likely to achieve it. So, a long-term goal, with incremental steps (and celebrations) along the way, and with enough challenge to keep you interested, is the way to go.

Specific and within a timeframe

A mistake that is often made is to identify a goal that says we will try harder, do more of something, or improve a skill. However – how will you know you are making progress, or have achieved what you have set out to without some ‘measure’ that will enable you to evaluate how you are doing. You goals should be as tangible as possible, and specify how many, of what, and by when. Using the example above about the marathon, if, as a sub goal you decide to run the Auckland 10km race in April in under 1 and a half hours, it would be easy to know if you have or have not achieved the goal. It’s not always easy to set such specific goals, but the more specific you can be the greater your sense of progress will be.

Positive

Sometimes it’s tempting to identify what we don’t want – things (emotions, behaviours, contexts) we’d like to avoid – rather than looking at what we do want. It is, though, way easier to actively set out to do or achieve something than it is to try to avoid doing it. Again, taking the example of the marathon, compare ‘I will stop eating biscuits until after I have run the marathon’, with ‘Up to when I run the marathon I will eat at least one salad a day, except for Monday which is my day off when I will eat 1 biscuit’.

Other things to include in effective goals

As well as the three key areas discussed above, it is good to also keep in mind the following characteristics of effective goal setting so that you include:

  • clear direction to attain your desired change,
  • clarity of priorities (which will inform your ongoing decision making),
  • identification of resources available to you (including people),
  • clearly stated tasks and activities that align directly with specific aspects of your goal(s), and
  • specific links to your performance and personal development

(Southern Institute of Technology, n.d., n.p.)

Even if you set effective goals, sometimes you’ll feel as though you aren’t making progress or that other things are derailing your efforts. At times like these it is good to talk with your coach to work through responses that will help you stick with your long-term goals, while maintaining your motivation – and sanity!

Terry Pratchett in his novel The Wee Free Men sums up the importance of goals as opposed to dreams as follows: “If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things …” (Pratchett, 2004, p. 21). Dreams can be incredibly motivating. However, you need to sit down and work out how to turn them into them reality, and setting effective goals is part of that process.

Image

Back in time. CC ( BY ND  ) licensed Flickr image by Hartwig HKD: https://flic.kr/p/6zXq7Y

References

  • Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).
  • Burdett, J. (2005). The listening paradox. Organizational Performance Review, 7-9.
  • Castleberry, S., & Shepherd, C. D. (1993). Effective Interpersonal Listening and Personal Selling. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, XIII(1), 35-49.
  • Grant, A. (2013). The Efficacy of Mentoring – the Benefits for Mentees, Mentors,  and Organizations. In Jonathan Passmore, David B. Peterson, and Teresa Freire (Eds). The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring Series: Wiley-Blackwell Handbooks in Organizational Psychology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 16 – 34.
  • International Coaching Federation. (n.d.). ICF Core Competencies. Retrieved from http://www.coachfederation.org/files/FileDownloads/CoreCompetencies.pdf.
  • Pickering, M. (1986, Fall). Communication. Explorations, A Journal of Research of the University of Maine, 3(1). pp. 16-19.
  • Rogers, C R., & Farson, R.E. (1987). Active listening. In Communication in Business Today. Eds. R. G. Newman, M. A. Danziger, & M. Cohen. Washington C.C.: Heath and Company
  • Rothwell, J. D. (2010). In the company of others: An introduction to communication. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Salem, R. (2003). Empathic Listening. In Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Retrieved http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/empathic-listening
  • Southern Institute of Technology. (n.d.) Transformational Coaching and its outcomes (Module A) [Lecture notes]. Retrieved from CBC105 (NET).
  • Spence, G.B., & Grant, A. (2007) Professional and peer life coaching and the enhancement of goal striving and well-being: An exploratory study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 185–94.
  • Whitworth, L, Kimsey-House, K, Kimsey-House, H, & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-active coaching: New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life. Palo Alto,California: Davies-Black Publishing.
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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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