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Developing as a coach? Some examples of SMART goals

SMART goals...most folks will have heard of them, and are likely to know that they are a mnemonic acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

SMART goals might not be useful in every coaching or mentoring context or conversation, but they can be a powerful way for you to map out a way forward, and build in self-accountability. The added benefit is that SMART goals offer a way to see how you are progressing, and to share that progress with others.

In a previous post, How great goal-setting can help turn your dreams into reality, I've shared some ideas about effective goal setting. Building on that, you may find it useful to see an example from a developing coach and mentor (who has agreed I can share it with you).

The developing coach and mentor - let's call him Nick (not his real name) - had identified that he would like to develop a specific skill - 'active listening', and, during the course of a couple of coaching sessions he came up with the following.

One of the coaching skills I would like to develop further in the next six months is focussed, active listening. A complementary aspect is to further develop my ability to ask really open questions that help my coachees focus on their solution rather than the problem. To help me develop these coaching skills I will:

SMART goal 1: During each of my coaching sessions until September 2016 I will type notes as I listen in an online Google document (that is also shared with my coachee). Typing the notes will mean that I can capture what I hear being said in a way that will help free up my short term memory and enable me to listen to comprehend.

The associated actions would include

  • Invite the coachee to read, check and comment on the notes I take (as another way of checking my understanding and signalling that I am interested / listening) - either during the session or afterwards.
  • Use the notes to frame powerful questions ‘in the moment’ (i.e. I will not be tempted to think of the question as I am listening, which will mean I can listen more openly)
  • Consciously focus on remaining neutral and non-judgemental by listening to the words that are being said, as well as to the pauses, emphases, and silences.
  • Use, while I am typing, noncommittal responses (e.g. “uh huh”), or short prompts (e.g. “I’d like to hear more about that”) to signal interest and engagement.
  • After every second session ask each coachee what the impact has been for them of me typing notes, and whether they would like me to continue.
  • Reflect on the impact I feel my note taking has had on my own ability to focus more and listen deeply.
  • Acknowledge improvements I recognise and / or positive feedback from coachees by sharing them with my own coach.

SMART goal 2: During each of my coaching sessions until 18th September 2016 I will ask at least 3 open questions (starting with ‘what’, ‘how’ or ‘if’) that encourage my coachee to focus on a strategy to move forward and / or on their next steps.

  • After each session I will go through the notes I took, and identify (at least) 3 open questions that I asked and recorded in my notes during the session.
  • Reflect in writing (about 100 words) in my notebook on what the impact of the 3 questions was and use this to inform my coaching sessions going forward.
  • Note and record positive impacts so that I can acknowledge and celebrate my progress with my own coach.

While the example from Nick is specific to coaching, it provides a clear outline of setting SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. He fed back that he found it really useful to work through the process, and a good sense of accomplishment as he could clearly see the impact he was making for his coachees.

What are your thoughts? How do you use SMART goals? What could they do to develop your practice, and your organisation further?


SMART Goals. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by Paula Naugle:

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