- We all have a variety of aims in every aspect of our lives. We might aim to be effective parents or good managers, or we might aim to lose weight or achieve a certain level of income.
One of the most useful things you can do as a coach is to help your coachees make sense of their aims and to encourage them to commit to a course of action that will help them achieve these aims. However, there are different types of aims, with some being quite vague and others being very precise; and certain aims are more useful to focus on than others.
Let’s take the example of Olympic athletes. They will probably ‘dream’ of an Olympic gold medal but it would be dangerous to focus too heavily on this as, no matter how good an athlete they may be, they cannot legislate for what the competition might do.
Instead athletes tend to set ‘performance goals’ such as personal bests. In this way they focus on the goals over which they have some control, such as running a race in a certain time or achieving a certain distance in a jumping or throwing event.
However day by day it is most likely that they will concentrate on processes. For our athlete this might mean working on technique, or building stamina. In other words the detailed steps necessary to achieve the performance goal that will in turn give them the best possible chance of achieving their dream.
The same is true in business. We might dream of being the top performing salesperson in the company this year, but we cannot control how the other sales people will perform. So we might set a performance goal of achieving 5% commission income this year instead, in the hope that such a performance might be good enough to achieve our dream.
However the only way to achieve our performance goals is to concentrate on the processes, e.g. questioning technique and handling objections. So we might set an aim of, say, asking twice as many ‘open’ as ‘closed’ questions, or responding to an objection twice before admitting defeat.
In summary, whenever we think about our aims in life we need dreams to provide the inspiration, performance goals to provide the specification and processes to provide the mechanism for achievement. We’ll now look at each of these aspects in more detail.
As a coach you are there to encourage your people to dream and to think big. Remember coaches believe in the vast reserves of potential in all people and as we begin our coaching conversations by discussing aims it is vital that we encourage people to stretch themselves.
At no point must we ever pour scorn on people’s high aims and dreams.
More often than not the thing that holds people back is a set of limiting beliefs and these have a habit of becoming true. If, for example, our parents continually wince every time we sing a tune as a small child then we are likely to believe that we cannot sing and therefore we will never be inclined to learn and make changes in order to be able to sing. Vocalists pass air over their vocal cords to make a noise, there is no reason why any of us should not be able to do this and sing well given time, support and practice.
As coaches we can be our team’s advocate constantly encouraging, supporting and helping people to believe that they can achieve their aims.
Typically, in a business setting, we will need to concentrate, in the main on performance goals.
These will usually come to us via our organization’s performance management system and will include the various standards and targets we are expected to achieve in the coming year or so.
We need to think about making sure that a performance goal is formulated in such a way as to give us the best chance of success.
Most people know the mnemonic SMART and its many derivatives, but the point is to create a detailed ‘end-point’ to provide focus, not to follow a model slavishly.
We can use coaching questions to make sure that people have constructed well thought out and balanced performance goals.
Processes are the building blocks towards achieving performance goals and are an incredible way of helping us focus on the small steps that in turn will lead to the big results.
We are concerned with using our coaching skills to help others make changes and improve their performance. We cannot do this by asking them to change dreams; we cannot do it even by tightening up their performance goals. Change, and therefore improvement can only take place at the level of process.