Hitting the Target

Tuesday 05, March 2019

Using coaching skills will maximise your chances of achieving your full potential

Many of us will have annual reviews and set targets in the next few months, or are just starting to work towards our new 2019 objectives. These might be company goals or professional development goals. You might also have some personal goals for the year such as achieving a promotion or finding a new job.

But how do we maximise our chances of achieving these goals? Why not try being your own coach and using coaching skills to help you to succeed?

To reach goals you need:

A clear goal that inspires you
A clear picture of the current reality
An action plan
Determination and focus.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

1. Clear goals
Before you take any action, you will need to set yourself a goal so you know what outcome you want to achieve and will know when you have achieved it.

Your goals might be your formal work objectives or development goals. But are they inspiring enough? For example, if one of your objectives for the year is ‘delivering the 2018-19 annual report on time and to budget’ this might not make you want to leap out of bed in the morning. If it doesn’t, would ‘producing an annual report I want to show my next employer or show my family’ feel more inspiring?

Everyone has different motivations, but to make a goal inspiring it is worth thinking about what it will be like when you have achieved it. What will people be saying about you, what difference will it have made and how will it feel? Use this information to help you formulate an inspiring goal. This should be:

  • Short and to the point (three to seven words is ideal) so you can remember it and it stays at the forefront of your mind
  • Realistic and achievable in a reasonable timeframe. Three months is a good period of time to concentrate on a goal – long enough to allow you to embed new habits but not so long that you lose interest. Of course, objectives are usually for a year, but you can break them down into sub goals
  • Positive and inspiring so that you are moving towards your goal rather than away from something. For example, it is better to have a goal of ‘feeling confident and in control in the boardroom’ rather than ‘feeling less anxious in the boardroom’.

2. Current reality
Once you have a clear, inspiring goal it is often helpful to establish where you are now in relation to that goal. There are several good ways of doing this:

  • For objectives such as the annual report you could review the last report, consider any lessons learnt and think about what new requirements have been introduced
  • For development objectives, you could use tools such as keeping a diary to provide information on how are you spending your time at work. What are you enjoying, what are you not enjoying, what is easy, what is hard, how do you feel and when? For example, if you have set yourself the goal of ‘feeling confident and in control in the boardroom’ notice when you feel confident in the working day and when you don’t and diarise the situations. From this you might notice some patterns – perhaps there are certain situations which make you particularly comfortable (or uncomfortable)?
  • Seek constructive feedback – this can be daunting, but it is a really good way of finding out where you are now. Ask a wide range of people you come into contact with for feedback – positive as well as areas where they think you could develop. It is really common to find that others haven’t even noticed something you are acutely aware of, for example maybe you appear confident on the exterior, irrespective of what is going on inside
  • Remember to listen to the feedback and consider it. Don’t focus only on the negative (which many of us have a tendency to do) and remember to pat yourself on the back for the positive too. If you have a defensive reaction to the negative remember to carefully consider it, particularly if more than one person has said similar things – could there be something to work on here?

3. Develop an action plan
The next thing you need to do is identify what actions you need to take to move you from your current position to your stated goal. Brainstorm all the different things you could do and be brave. Some actions will seem daunting but you will achieve the best results if you are prepared to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

The actions you identify will depend on your goal, but good actions can include:

  • Reading the latest relevant guidance
  • Breaking a big task (such as the annual report) into manageable chunks
  • Developing a project plan
  • Engaging with stakeholders
  • Seeking feedback or advice
  • Researching options
  • (For soft skills) identifying someone you know who demonstrates the behaviours you want to develop and observing them. What is it about the way they act that you admire? Consider things like tone of voice, body language, appearance, use of humour etc. You can use this information to consider how you might incorporate it authentically into your
  • own behaviour
  • Trying out new skills in a safe, low-risk environment first, which may require you to fake it for a while (until you make it)

When you try something, review what went well and why, what you could have done differently. Then try again, in increasingly more complex environments, asking for more feedback.

Keep practising. When you are developing a new skill or changing a behaviour you have to give it ongoing attention to embed it. This way, it becomes second nature and you maintain the change.
Once you have identified what actions you are going to take, write them down, with deadlines, and do them. If you work better under pressure ask someone to hold you to account on those deadlines.

4. Determination and focus
You will need to be prepared for setbacks during this period. Self-coaching is not easy and setbacks are inevitable. Keep positive by reminding yourself regularly of your ultimate goal and how things are going to be different when you achieve it. Be prepared to forgive yourself if you fail, pick yourself up, learn from the experience and try again. Seek support from someone you trust to help you during these periods.

Achieving your goal

When you have achieved your goal, reward yourself with something nice. You will have worked really hard to achieve it so don’t just move on – make sure you celebrate. You may also forget about it before your next annual review so make a note of what you achieved and your specific contribution to it so you have evidence for your annual review.

If this all sounds too challenging then consider working with a mentor or a coach. CGIUKI has a mentoring scheme for students and members which offers up to six free mentoring session with trained mentors. The mentors can help you set goals and provide you with support and encouragement as you work towards achieving them. If you would like to take advantage of this member benefit contact mentoring@icsa.org.uk. 

Lesley Ward FCIS is branch liaison and mentoring manager at The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland

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