5 Techniques for Setting Personal Goals

Let’s face it.  Even in a healthy working relationship, coaching someone on their personal goals can feel awkward.  Many managers work hard to keep business and personal relationships separate.

It is true that you aren’t tasked with being their friend, however, you are, in fact, tasked with being their coach.

Read on to learn 5 techniques for discussing personal goals during the coaching conversation.



Why ask about Personal Goals?


First, why is coaching on personal goals important?

Because it affords you the ability to show genuine care.


People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.


When you genuinely care about your employee, you build the trust necessary for an effective and healthy coaching relationship.


The Performance Culture system includes a place to record personal goals and professional development on all self-assessments.  


How to Set Personal Goals


1.  Keep it simple.


Many of us are tempted to set lofty or too many goals.  When reality hits, discouragement and disillusionment threaten to steal our initial excitement and commitment to obtaining our goals.

As their coach, help the employee understand how much he or she can achieve in a specific amount of time and narrow the many to just a few.


2.  Keep it personal and professional.


The Personal Goals and Professional Development section of the self-assessment is not for merely repeating performance or behavior goals.

This is the time to talk more than just about “the work.”  Use these questions as a guide:

  • What outside of work are you interested in?
  • What, if anything, would you like to learn or achieve professionally?

This connects back to why we should ask about personal goals.  Organizations must receive a return on their investment of hiring, training, and maintaining an employee on the payroll.  Likewise, employees must receive a return on their labor above that of their salary and benefits – personal vision attainment and satisfaction.  If our conversations with employees merely center around what they can do for us, a “win-win” situation is not created.




3.  Keep it specific.


This is a big one! Along with keeping it simple, our employees need help creating specific goals; something they can check off a list.

For example, rather than accepting a goal of “Be Healthier,” help them create actionable goals that can be tracked.  Turn this vague goal into a specific one, such as  “Join a Running Club by the end of September.”

Breaking lofty goals into smaller ones allows for personal wins along the way.  This yields a sense of accomplishment, providing the steam necessary to keep working towards the bigger goal.



4.  Keep them accountable.


All great coaches know the importance of accountability.  When personal goals and professional development objectives are shared with someone, there becomes implied accountability.

Committing to a goal verbally AND in writing will force the accountability.

The Performance Culture System prompts a discussion of accountability through the self-assessment question, “Did you achieve your personal goals and professional development objectives?  If so, how?  If not, why?”

Help your employee prepare to be successful by asking these questions:

  • How are you going to hold yourself accountable?
  • How can I help you?
  • What obstacles do you feel would keep you from achieving your goal?

Also, don’t forget to use check-ins.  Checking in and asking a few simple questions frequently helps them stay focused and aligned with what’s important, not just what is urgent.


5.  Help them celebrate.


This one is easy to forget.  We can become so focused on a goal and how to get there that we forget to celebrate the achievement or ponder how we may celebrate.  We may simply move on to the next goal.  This is truly a missed opportunity for fulfillment and in some cases, transformation.

So don’t forget to ask:

  • How are you going to celebrate when you achieve your goal?

By asking this question, the employee can now visualize achieving the goal, get in tune with how they will feel when it happens, and are more likely to commit to taking action.

Celebrations don’t have to be big, but there should be a marked moment or activity of personal gratification.


We believe that armed with these 5 techniques, a discussion on personal goals can facilitate an effective coaching conversation and create a more authentic and healthy working relationship.