Why Focus on Goals When Coaching?

by William “Marty” Martin, PsyD MA MPH MS CHES

ACPE faculty member William “Marty” Martin will present a focused session on Coaching and Mentoring at the AAHPM Leadership Forum: Ascend program, September 14-16, 2014. AAHPM Ascend is a new intensive program included in the AAHPM’s comprehensive new Leadership Forum.

“A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” – Harvey Mackey

You cannot coach without goals. And goals without follow-up often results in dreaming, hoping and wishing. Coaching and goals together move you closer to achieving results. What are the results of coaching in palliative care/hospice settings? There are three levels of results: (1) individual; (2) group/team; and (3) organization. At the individual level, if physicians and other providers are meeting and exceeding performance expectations, then results are likely to be achieved. At the group/team level, if members of the team feel psychologically safe, experience support from each other, hold each other accountable, and meet or exceed expectations, then results are likely to be achieved. At the organizational level, if individuals can offer feedback to others, either in a supervisor: subordinate or peer: peer relationships, then results are likely to be achieved.

How do you set goals when you coach? A useful tool for setting coaching goals is the SMART tool. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. As a coach, it is not your job to set SMART goals but to engage in a coaching conversation to enable the coachee to develop his/her own SMART goals. As a coach, you may want to ask questions about how the SMART goals were set and if they are formulated in a way to set the coachee up for success or failure. Part of your role as a coach is to guide the coachee to experience success and to constructively learn from failure. Resilience is desirable outcome arising from constructively learning from failure.

In closing, when you are coaching a peer or a subordinate or even yourself, remember that if you don’t have any goals, then you are not coaching. And remember that goal setting is not a vague, aspirational process but a deliberate process captured by the pneumonic SMART. The benchmark of success in coaching is the achievement of specific results.

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