Coaching is a significant part of leadership. Keith Nelson, Associate at the Møller Institute, shares his insights into understanding and identifying how we can break down our goals into manageable steps as part of coaching and leadership practice. Every one of these steps can then be used to achieve our purpose.
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
The Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Alice: “…so long as I get somewhere.”
The Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
(Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)
Goals are one of the fundamental building blocks for coaching. Coaching’s origins can be found in sport, which provides a wealth of examples of goal-setting. The tennis player hires a coach to win a Grand Slam. Football teams employ coaches to win championships. Follow sport and it becomes quickly apparent that there are interdependent end goals and step goals. No tennis player ever won a Grand Slam tournament by losing in the first round. The end goal is the long-term target. The short-term step goals are milestones to help achieve the target. The two are inextricably linked.
If the end goal is to start a new lifestyle and involves moving from town to country, then possible step goals are visiting potential locations to move to – and putting the existing home up for sale. If the end goal is to work full-time as a professional coach, the step goals might include gaining qualifications and experience. If the end goal is to be appointed managing director within three years, then elevation to a board position is a step goal.
Having both step and end goals is important. Without step goals, the end goal may just remain a daydream. (Milton H Erickson said that a goal without a date is just a dream.) Equally, if there is no end goal, then actions can remain focused on the short-term steps and progress forwards is painfully slow.
The coach adds value by offering dual or even multiple perspectives – by simultaneously working with step and end goals. As the work progresses, the coach and client can monitor and review progress against the stated end goals.
Life does not take place in a vacuum and, as the coaching progresses, new goals may emerge that supplant former ones. An organisational restructure, redundancy, divorce, illness or economic downturn are just a few of life’s events that might require re- evaluation of both end and step goals. As an example, redundancy might bring the end goal considerably nearer. Illness might take it further into the future.
Flexibility and the skills to work with what emerges are both important in the role of the leader as coach. It’s important to bear in mind all the step goals because these are not linear and will overlap.
How to keep your goals golden
- Keep a multiple perspective focused upon both step goals and the end goal.
- Be prepared to review goals as the emergent situation requires.
- Monitor and review against progress to achieve the goals.