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8 Steps to Help Clients Reach Their Career Goals Faster

By Dr. Mickey Parsons, MCC, BCC


Disclaimer - what follows is an adapted version of the article written by Dr. Parsons for the Coaching Tools Company...

Many people consult a coach because they want to accomplish something or change something about their lives but they can't figure out how to get there on their own.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?

As coaches, we ask our clients these questions all the time. And if you work with managers, business leaders, professionals and other career-focused clients as I do, the replies typically go something like this:

  • I want to advance up the ladder at work.

  • I want to become more influential in my profession.

  • I want more recognition for my work.

  • I want to change departments in my firm.

  • I want to move up to an executive or leadership role.

But many of us do a terrible job reaching our goals. Inc. magazine reported that only 8% of people who set New Year's resolutions or goals actually accomplish them!

So whether you come coaching with clearly articulated goals or you need help identifying your goals, a coach can help guide you to be more focused, analytical and strategic in their goal setting and their goal activation.

Here's a 8-step roadmap for setting and activating goals

Use this roadmap to facilitate and even accelerate this process and let me know if you'd like some help in doing so!

Step 1. Identify your overarching goal (your big A, for Big Agenda)?

We all need somewhere to start. So figure out an overarching goal to get started with.

For example: "I want to advance from my current role as an independent sales or IT professional to one where I manage a team and eventually move into an executive position."


Step 2. Reflect on why you want this goal - your big Why?

Identifying a clear "Why?" helps people understand the benefits of achieving the goal to them - and makes it more likely they will succeed.

3 Questions to consider:

  • How will achieving your goal energize your work life?

  • How will it fulfill you personally?

  • Does it align with your core values and vision of who you want to be?

This step is really important! Getting clear on these types of questions will energize you for the work ahead.

Step 3. Launch a personal fact-finding mission

Mine for as much detail as possible about the goal.


3 Questions to consider:

  • What skills do you need to develop?

  • What experience or professional training will help you advance?

  • Where do your strengths and weaknesses lie?

  • They can ask you, others whom they trust such as a mentor, boss, teammates, colleagues, direct reports and even friends.


Step 4. Make a list

Based on you research and self-reflection, organize what you've learned into categories such as:


  • Skills to develop

  • Training or education to pursue

  • Relationships to cultivate

  • Goals or thresholds to reach in their current job

  • Deficits or weaknesses to overcome

Step 5. Prioritize

Narrow down your list so you can focus your energies on those areas that will be of most value and where you feel most motivated to act.


Tip: This is also a good time to do an authenticity check. You could ask:


Are your goals in sync with your values? Are they aligned with your strengths?

Step 6. Develop SMART goals for the items on your list

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable and Realistic.


This means that rather than setting a general goal like "I will improve my management skills," identify the specific areas of management they need or want to improve. This could be something like coaching direct reports, giving timely feedback or fostering teamwork. Then set specific goals for each specific area identified.


6 Tips for setting powerful goals:

  1. Use positive language.

  2. Define how they will measure success.

  3. Set a timeline.

  4. Make sure their goals reflect their own desires, not someone else's idea of what they should do or be.

  5. Set goals with the appropriate degree of challenge—neither too easy nor too difficult: goals should stretch you, but not so much that you end up discouraged.

  6. Write down your goals.

Step 7. Create action plans and a timeline

Break down your goals into bite-sized pieces. Then outline the steps and specific tasks you will complete to achieve each goal, along with a timeline for each.


This step is key. It's where you actually do the work that moves you forward.


3 Action plan examples:

1. If the goal is improving your management of direct reports, your action plan might include:

  • Meeting with team members weekly

  • Giving on-the-spot feedback to three people every day

  • Completing a course in becoming a leader-coach by a certain date

2. If your goal is to network more, your action plan might be to:

  • Attend three professional conferences in the next 12 months

  • And connect with a certain number of influential people at each conference

3. If your goal is to improve your presentations to upper management, you might commit to:

  • Joining Toastmasters

  • And to giving your first public speech within the next three months

Step 8. Be accountable

Most of us can't do this work alone.


Working with a career coach, executive, management or leadership development coach gives leaders an all-important accountability partner to provide objective feedback about your path and progress, including a gentle push when needed.


Don't be shy about your intentions. Let your manager, colleagues, friends and acquaintances know about your career goals. And whether at their current place of employment or externally, be sure to focus on how your success will benefit the organization.

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