Module 3: Setting Goals

Module Three: Setting Goals

Without a goal, your chances of successfully coaching your employee to better performance are low. Defining specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time driven goals will plot a marker in the horizon that acts as your beacon. Without it, you are navigating blindly, causing frustration for both you and your employee, because you never seem to make any improvement. It becomes a constant cycle of failing to meet the goal and talking to your employee about it. This repeats repeatedly without a well-defined goal.

This module will discuss setting goals with an easy-to-remember technique. This is the first component or the “G” of the GROW method of coaching. Let us explore what this is and how to develop it.

Goals in the Context of GROW

The first step of the GROW model is the key step in the process. Setting the goal gives you and your employee direction and purpose. You will find it very difficult if you were handed a bunch of tools and materials and told to build something without a clear vision or goal of what is to be built.

The same holds true for developmental goals. It is not good enough to tell your employee they must improve in sales or build widgets faster. These types of goals create more confusion because they do not know where to start. Back to the building analogy, you may end up building a stool when what was really needed was as birdhouse. Clear goals are the cornerstone of the GROW model.

Here are some benefits to establishing goals upfront in the process:

  • Both you and your employee have a better chance of starting in the right direction together.
  • Coaching time is more efficient once goals are discussed upfront.
  • You are able to plan ahead of the session and prepare targeted questions.
  • The coaching session is direct and avoids meandering.
  • You will come across more clear, instilling confidence in your employees.

Now, since we established the importance and benefit of goal setting early in the coaching process, let us look at identifying appropriate goal areas.

Identifying Appropriate Goal Areas

When coaching, it is a temptation for you to talk more because we have plenty to say. However, in order to gain information and identifying appropriate goal areas, you must listen more. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. Your objective here is to “catch” as much information as possible to help you determine what specific areas you can leverage and achieve results. Many times, allowing your employee to achieve even the smallest of goals begins a positive reinforcement of coaching. At some point before your actual coaching session, you want to engage in a brief discussion with your employee to determine their personal goals.

Here are some questions you should ask while during your pre-coaching meeting. Remember to write down their answers for your reference later:

  • What goals are you working on right now?
  • Where are you in relation to those goals?
  • What do you think is keeping you from reaching this goal?
  • How will you know you reached that goal?

Asking these open-ended questions starts a conversation about your employee, which is what you want to achieve. Allowing your employee to speak more enables you to gather more information. Asking questions about their goals reveals their desires and this is something you can tie in to your coaching goal. Maybe an employee is furthering their education by going to college at night. Understanding this, you may be able to motivate your employee to achieve better performance, leading them to make more incentive they can use to fund their educational needs.

Furthermore, understanding where they are in relation to their goals reveals needs that may need support from you. Helping your employee with their personal goals builds a great working relationship. Finally, determining what roadblocks are preventing them from reaching their goals will provide insight into their personal circumstances. Granted, you may not solve all of your employee’s problems, but demonstrating empathy goes a long way and helps to form goals for you that take into consideration your employee’s personal situation. Remember, your employee does not care how much you know until you show how much you care. Listen more and talk less.

One final note, at first you may find asking questions challenging. This is normal. Give it time and do not give up. You may even have to let your employee know that you are interested more in their personal goals as a way to help them reach goals at work.

Setting SMART Goals

Writing goals can be a daunting task if done without a particular format or process. After you have your pre-coaching meeting with your employee, you are ready to meet again with your employee and write a clear goal, starting the GROW process. Having a clear format and goal development process will enable you build an effective goal. SMART is the technique you want to use when building the goal with your employee. It outlines your goal in an easy and clear format that your employee will find useful.

SMART stands for the following goal characteristics:

  • Specific: What needs to be done? The goal must be clear. It cannot be a general statement like be better at sales or be more organized. Use action verbs like increase sales or use a calendar. Next, we need to put some measurement in place.
  • Measurable: Place some form of measurement that is easily verifiable to the goal. For example, continuing with the last example, increase sales by 3 percent or use a calendar two times a week. When you have a number incorporated to the goal, it makes it easier to check progress and hold your employee accountable.
  • Attainable: Make sure the goal is not too much at one time to complete. Setting huge goals will lead to failure because the employee will see it as impossible. In addition, assess your employee’s attitude. Use the information gained from your questions to help make this goal relevant. Irrelevant goals are not done. Make the goal manageable yet challenging.
  • Realistic: Take in to consideration any learning, mentoring that has to take place or habits that have to be broken first before you set your employee’s goal. If you are asking your employee to do something better, make sure they have the basics down first. Assess them, determine any gaps, and set you goals according to their skills and abilities.
  • Timely: Always set a time limit or timeframe. Do not allow your employee’s goal to wander aimlessly. Set follow up meetings and keep them. Your employee looks forward to these meetings especially when they are moving towards the goal. Do not set too much time between intervals. This may send the message to your employee that they have time to make the adjustment. You want to set short specific timeframes.

SMART goals are easy to do, but require a commitment on your part to use it consistently. Now that you have an idea how to develop your goal, we are going to see why understanding the reality is essential to the coaching process.

Case Study

Cory worked in the customer service department of the company he worked for. He had no defined goals except to help the customers with whatever problems they may have. Alex, the manager, approached Cory and asked for his satisfaction rating and other statistics relating to his work performance. While Cory worked hard, he had not been made aware that he needed to keep up with those statistics. Alex explained the process and set forth the goals that Cory would be expected to both reach and track. After that, Cory always had his performance reports ready and knew he was doing well.