coaching goals

Coaching Goals: A Process (w/ Examples) to Improve Success 

Achieving success involves a lot more than writing out a SMART goal. That framework has been around for decades, but plenty of people still fail to achieve their goals. In fact, if achieving a goal was as easy as setting a goal, most people would never need a coach. 

I interviewed Todd Herman on how he approaches coaching goals, and he said that a great coach knows that success is less about setting goals and more about building a system that makes achieving the goal inevitable.

So while setting SMART goals is definitely important, this post will discuss the hard part – how coaches can help their students achieve the goals they’ve created.

Todd is one of the leading performance coaches, and here’s the process he uses to help elite athletes, business leaders, and public figures achieve their goals.

How Coaches Can Improve Student Goal Achievement Rates

First, it is important to set SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-based) goals to track student progress. Once those goals are defined, work backward to figure out what habits the student needs to develop to achieve those goals.

This is where most people stop, though as I mentioned, most people know the habits they need to adopt (work out four times per week to lose weight), but executing them is often the biggest problem. 

So Todd focuses on building a system that ensures these habits are adopted. Specifically, he focuses on adjusting four key areas that greatly influence a person’s habits. These areas are a student’s:

  • Environmental Setup
  • Social Influences
  • Behavioral Actions
  • Mindset or Inner Game

Let’s dive into how you can coach your students through each of these four areas.

Environmental Changes

Many people are a product of their environment, so use that to your advantage. Rather than encouraging the student to try harder and fight against the environment, help them optimize their environment so that it is difficult to avoid the new habit. 

For example, if the goal is to lose 15 pounds and one action item is to spend 15 minutes per day on an elliptical, ask the student how they can better position the elliptical so that they are encouraged to use it.

For example, perhaps they should place it in front of the TV and remove all other couches from the room. This way, the student will have to either use the elliptical or stand to watch TV. 

Suppose another habit they selected is to stop eating sweets. In this case, the student can either eliminate sweets from the house entirely or invest in a lockbox with a code. This way, the student can only eat a sweet by asking someone else to unlock the box and give them one. 

Social Changes

You’ve probably heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and if you think about your own life, it’s probably true. Again, rather than asking the student to fight against the urge to do what their friends are doing, shift it by involving the friends on their journey. 

While asking the friends to support their journey is one step in the right direction, make it even more specific. 

For example, when Todd was in his twenties, he and his friend were training for athletic competition. Rather than just telling his friends about the goal and then asking them to be supportive, he offloaded as many decisions as possible to that friend. 

Specifically, when they went out to restaurants, Todd ordered for his friend, and the friend ordered for Todd (both ordered a salad with an extra side of grilled chicken). 

As friends have no emotional attachment to the decision, yet they know what the goal is, they are much more likely to make better decisions.

So walk your students through how they can offload as many decisions as possible onto their friends. 

If the student protests by saying they don’t want to inconvenience their friends, Todd handles this by flipping the question. “If your friend told you about a goal and asked you to help them achieve it by ordering for them at a restaurant, would you mind?”

Probably not. 

We want to be a part of our friend’s successes as it gives us a sense of significance. Therefore, don’t deny them the opportunity to be a part of your success.

If the student finds him or herself surrounded by people that are not supportive of their goals, enrolling in a group coaching program where they can rely on other supportive people is an excellent solution.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral change is a broad category that includes things like habits and actions.  

For example, if the goal is to lose 15 pounds, everyone knows that eating healthier will help the student achieve that goal. So rather than just leaving it at that, ask them to define what foods they will eat and at what times. 

Similarly, if the goal is to grow an agency’s client base, the behavioral change could be sending 150 cold emails per week. Or, if the goal is to launch a project at a specific date, meet with project leaders once a week and ensure it is on time.

Ask your students to get really specific with these behaviors, and don’t be afraid to adjust them if necessary.

Mindset Shifts (The Inner Game)

All of the advice above is great and can set the stage for any person to achieve their goals, but none of it matters if they don’t have the right mindset.

So what are some new ways of thinking that the student could adopt that will help them achieve this goal?

While the answer varies depending on the student, here are some specific questions you can ask your students to help them find the answer.

  1. How would someone that has already achieved this goal approach it? Or what would this goal look like if it were easy?

This is where it might be helpful to guide your student to create an alter ego. Todd wrote a best-selling book on creating an alter ego, though to put it in simple terms, it is creating or adopting the mindset of a character that is skilled at the student’s goals. 

For example, if the goal is to close more deals, perhaps the student would take on an alter ego similar to Zig Ziglar. Closing deals is easy for Zig Ziglar, so the student will adopt a healthier mindset by approaching it from his standpoint.

  1. What does this goal look like when you’ve already achieved it?

This is another powerful question that will keep the student-focused during tough times. However, don’t just leave it vague. For example, if the goal is to lose 15 pounds, saying you’ll be healthier and feel better isn’t a very compelling reason to stick to the goal.

A much more compelling reason to achieve the goal is envisioning eavesdropping on a conversation of two people saying, “Have you seen (student’s name) lately? She looks great!” Or it might be something like putting on a bikini, looking in the mirror and feeling confident. The reason will look very different for each student, though the key is to help them get as specific as possible. 

Tracking Goal Achievement

Setting the right environment, social circle, behaviors and mindset are all geared towards ensuring the student takes action. However, if you aren’t tracking the actions, you won’t know how to help the student tweak their environment, social circle, behaviors or mindset.

To solve this, adopt a habit tracker and schedule accountability sessions. Ideally, you want the accountability and habit tracking in one single platform with the rest of the coaching program (the lessons, to-dos, etc) to create a more cohesive experience. 

That’s why Todd uses upcoach for all of his coaching courses. Upcoach is an all-in-one platform that enables you to assign to-dos, track habits, schedule meetings, and upload material.

As a coach, you can also see a detailed overview of the student’s progress. For example, you can see how many to-dos the student has completed, how much of each worksheet the student completed, and even track their habits. 

If you’d like to see the platform for yourself, try it out today

How to Help Your Students When They’re Struggling 

Once you’ve helped your student set environmental, social, behavioral, and mindset changes, it’s likely that you’ll still need to help them tweak these elements. 

So at your next check-in call, ask them which action items they achieved and which action items they failed to achieve. From there, analyze where the breakdown occurred for the habits they failed to achieve. 

For example, if the student’s goal is to lose 15 pounds and they slipped up one day and ate pizza because the boss bought pizza for everyone at work, audit the four areas to help them find a solution so that this scenario never happens again.

Environmental: Take a walk outside as soon as the pizza comes so that you aren’t near it.

Social: Tell the boss about your goal and ask them to hide the pizza when you come back from your walk.

Behavioral: Plan to bring a healthy lunch to the office every day. 

Mindset Shifts: When the pizza comes, think about the conversation you envision eavesdropping on between your two friends and how great it will feel to lose those 15 pounds.

These four criteria have a massive impact on how likely they are to succeed at their goal. For example, an average person in the New England Patriots conditioning process will likely be a decent athlete simply because they will adopt the processes and habits of some of the world’s most elite athletes.

Similarly, a top athlete that is placed in a poor conditioning program will likely fail to perform anywhere close to their full potential. 

So continue to tweak these four areas until you find a program that works for your students. Below, we’ll dive into some concrete examples of putting these four areas into action.

Examples of Executive Coaching Goals 

As executives are focused on moving the business as a whole forward, here are a few examples of executive coaching goals:

  • Goal 1: Improve customer retention by 30% by the end of the next quarter
  • Goal 2: Increase profit margins by 20% by the end of the year
  • Goal 3: Launch a new product offering by the end of next quarter

Now let’s look at the four action categories that would help the student achieve these goals.

Environmental Changes:

Here are a few ways a student could change their environment to achieve these goals:

  • Create a sticky note with those three goals and post it on the computer. Before accepting any meeting, ask if it will help them move towards one of those three goals.
  • If people frequently enter the office during work sessions, create a do not disturb sign while working on high value activities.
  • Use social media blockers on the computer or a tool like FlowClub to minimize distractions.

Social Changes:

  • Tell the team the weekly goals and allow them to hold the executive accountable.
  • Join a mastermind group like YPO or EO and ask those members to help you stay accountable.
  • Tell the spouse or significant other the key goals and earn their support.

Behavioral Changes:

  • Schedule weekly calls with five customers to understand what the company can do to improve the product and/or service
  • Assign a team to do pricing research (or use a tool like ProfitWell) and another team to look at major expenses. Then, increase the price and cut expenses.
  • Add weekly check-ins with the product team to ensure the product launch is on time (do they need more resources, where is it stuck, etc.)

Mindset Shifts:

  • How will the executive’s life be different once he or she has achieved these goals? Define this in detail from what it will mean for their personal life, professional career, and even relationships.

Examples of Life Coaching Goals

For life coaches, the goals are typically both personal and career-oriented. Here are just a few examples of common life coaching goals:

  • Goal 1: Lose 15 pounds in the next 90 days
  • Goal 2: Get a 20% pay raise in the next 12 months
  • Goal 3: Go on three vacations per year with your significant other

Here are a few action steps they can take to achieve these goals:

Environmental Changes:

  • Remove the couches from the living room with the TV and replace them with workout machines.
  • Remove all foods that don’t fit within the list of foods that the student chose to eat.
  • If the student works from home and finds him or herself easily distracted by social media or texts and phone calls, leave the phone outside of the office. Remove any phone chargers in the office too. 
  • If one of the key things holding the student back from going on vacation is a lack of financial resources and he/she spends a lot of money going out to eat, meal prep every week so that going out to eat is less tempting.

Social Changes:

  • To lose weight, tell the friends what the goal is and then ask them to order for them at a restaurant based on their goal.
  • Find a few people that have already achieved the position/promotion the student is aiming for. Schedule weekly check ins to positively pressure to student to progress.
  • To save more money for the vacation, have this conversation with a friend, “I’m saving for a vacation, so I’m choosing to only go out once per week. Could you please invite me out no more than once per week?”

Behavioral Changes:

  • Define what foods will help you lose weight and order them online rather than going to a grocery store where you might be tempted to purchase other foods.
  • Sit down with your boss and ask them what kind of work would warrant a 20% raise. Write it down and update the boss on how you’re doing with that goal.
  • Set up an automatic savings account for your vacations so that a percentage of your paycheck automatically goes towards that vacation

Mindset Shifts:

  • Clearly define what the vacation will look like (where you’re going, what hotel you’ll stay in and specific activities you’ll do). This will make it easier to turn down tempting offers like going out more or buying random items from Target.
  • If getting that 20% raise involves closing more clients yet you feel timid on sales calls, create an alter ego where it’s easy to close clients and you love doing it.
  • Imagine eavesdropping on a conversation where a friend tells another friend, “Have you seen how good (student’s name) looks?”

These are just a few examples of how you can use those four categories to help the student achieve their goals rather than just setting them and wondering why they aren’t achieving them.

Coaching Goals Worksheet

To use the method outlined throughout this post, feel free to download this coaching goals worksheet and use it for your own students. 

If you need a single platform to track all of your students’ progress, including completed to-dos, new habits, and worksheet completion, consider trying upcoach. It’s an all-in-one platform, meaning your content, worksheets, habits, meeting scheduling, and to-dos live in one unified platform rather than bolting together a course platform, meeting scheduling tool, collaboration tool (like Trello) habit tracker, and Google Docs. 

This creates a better user experience as students don’t have to remember nearly as many passwords, and you don’t have to purchase nearly as much software.

You can try it out risk free today or schedule a demo.

Final Thoughts

While setting goals is an important aspect of coaching, the real challenge is helping your students achieve those goals.

So use this framework to sit down with your students and optimize their environment, social life, behaviors, and mindset to achieve the goals.

If a student is falling behind, revisit those categories and walk through how you can tweak them to improve your student’s achievement.

In addition, if you don’t have a great method for tracking your students’ new habits, consider using a tool like upcoach. To see if it’s a right fit for your program, schedule a demo or try it out today for free.

Picture of Megan Mahoney
Megan Mahoney
Megan writes content for SaaS companies and digital marketing agencies to increase traffic and conversions. She's worked with brands like Chatfuel, Single Grain, Copyblogger, and others and have also been featured in leading publications like the Content Marketing Institute.
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