Doctor Coach

Don't teach more, coach better!

Setting & Using Goals

Establishing mutual and explicit goals creates the overarching focus for a given coaching relationship and ensures that the coach and learner are on the same page. 

Principles of goal striving

The ultimate outcome of goal setting is to improve goal striving, so when helping learners to set goals, keep in mind the principles of goal setting that can impact goal striving including how important the goal is to the learner and how confident they are that they can achieve it. The importance of a goal to a learner depends on both the learner's intrinsic motivation or interest in the goal as well as how much s/he needs to achieve the goal at the time. Confidence depends on environmental resources and supports as well as the learner's self-efficacy and flexibility to revisit and revise his/her goals. The process of goal setting has the potential to improve both importance and confidence. 

Coaching learners to set SMART goals

By helping your learners to better define their goals, you can improve their goal striving and achievement.  In order to help your learners to select the right goals to work on, you can ask them about their self-assessment. Help your learners to reflect on their performance: ask them what they think their strengths are (to know what to build on), areas they want to work on improving, and the barriers they have encountered in the past, so that you can help them outline strategies that will be successful.


The more specific a goal is the more clear the rest of the components of effective goals will be.  You should encourage learners to describe each component or term in the goal statement.


Ask learners how they (or you as their coach) will know when they have acheived their goals.  These measures might be outputs from the steps outlined in the goal and/or outcomes that can be expected with goal achievement.  Specific goals usually have clear measures, so if there are no clear outputs or outcomes, you may need to help the learner be more specific about their goal description.


Help your learners to outline the methods and resources that they need to attain their goal.  They may need to help them to break the goal down into incremental steps and describe how they will attain each step.  You can ask again about what barriers learners anticipate (or have had in the past) and help them to problem solve ways to address them.  You can help them to determine what assistance or resources they need to be successful.  You might want to suggest that they build in internal accountability with a reminder or tracking system and/or external accountability by enlisting the help of mentors and colleagues.


Before embarking on a goal together, you want to make sure that the learner thinks the goal is important and has some confidence in their ability to achieve it.  It is helpful to have a challenging goal to promote goal striving, but not one that is so hard that the learner will give up.  You can help learners to think about how they will prioritize working on their goals and integrate that work with their other responsibilities at the time. 


You should ask learners about their timeframe for completing their goals as well as when they plan to check in on their progress.  You may need to remind them to adjust their goals or strategies based on any barriers that they may encounter.

Understanding your learner's well defined goals will help you to think about how you might manage
The Coaching Environment in a way that will facilitate goal striving.