Happy Halloween! It’s a great day to talk about a scary topic: setting professional development goals for yourself or for those you lead. I thought it might be helpful to write about how I coach my clients to set their own professional development goals.
Executive coaching uses a process, begining with action planning.A written action plan becomes a reference document that is used as the foundation for the professional development work with a client, and is used to obtain the sponsor`s (mentor or manager) approval for moving forward in the coaching engagement.
The first step in creating an action plan is to decide on the professional goals for the work my client and I will partner on. While I might think that the process of setting goals and creating a written action plan is frighteningly simple, I know it can be difficult when the goals are “about you”. Goal setting can be so personal for my clients that it becomes ghoulish without a way to narrow down and focus on what’s important for them and their organization.
Gathering information and feedback first
Many leaders have feedback in written form, often from 360`s. Others may have been given some oral feedback and/or may also have taken some self-assessments such as DiSC or MBTI (these assessments aren’t exactly “feedback” but can be helpful in goal setting). Where feedback is scant, I may assist by conducting feedback interviews or administering the 360 assessment I’m certified for. Trust me, even the best leaders aren`t perfect, and there is always something that stands out for them in the feedack they receive that they are fervent about working on.
Deciding on the goal(s)
All of the feedback, from all sources, can be consolidated in some way by using some of the following questions as guidelines:
- What stands out for you in this feedback?
- What surprises you?
- What comes through as your strengths or challenges in this feedback?
- What do you agree or disagree with in the feedback?
- What are you most passionate about working on?
Once narrowed down in this way, the focus begins to become clear. It may not happen immediately ?€“ some of us just need time to reflect.
Leaders who are driven to improve want to set LOTS of goals and achieve them in a relatively short time. Generally this is not a good strategy. Those many goals become ghouls (dictionary definition: an evil demon that feeds on human beings) that can get overwhelm and eat you alive. I suggest one or maybe two big goals at a time. This makes the work focused and achievable. Choosing one BIG STRETCH GOAL (or maybe two) at a time that gets you excited and captures your interest, and you are on your way toward creating an action plan that will get results.
Some examples of goals
Because someone will always ask for examples of goals, here are some from my client`s action plans (note: while some of these may not seem like “stretch goals” to some of you, they were for my clients. Many variables determine the “stretchiness” of a goal for a particular individual. These variables include the client`s pace and personality, the organizational culture, and their manager`s goals for them):
- Learn and demonstrate leadership styles appropriate to particular situations and individuals
- Develop and clearly communicate strategies for the organization
- Communicate in a clear, concise, logical manner
- Collaborate effectively across organizational boundaries
- Increase knowledge and understanding of our customer base
- Formulate and communicate a personal leadership vision
- Recognizing and utilizing the strengths of team members
- Build an effective team and organization
- Learn productive ways to deal with conflict
- Develop a polished leadership presence
- Lead a culture change in the organization to one that is motivated, engaged, and results oriented
- Play a more significant role on the leadership team and be seen as the “go-to” person for knowledge in my area of expertise
- Create and encourage greater efficiency and a sense of urgency in the organization
Next: Action Planning: creating action steps for your goals.