How control theories were put into practice

Integrating target perspectives into coaching practice - an integrative model of goal-oriented coaching


The article describes well-known theories for goal setting, formulation and implementation. An integrative model of goal-oriented coaching is developed from the elements described. The model can support coaches in helping their coachees in the goal setting and implementation process. Goals are not viewed as a monolithic construct, but as a multi-faceted element in the coaching process. The model cannot therefore be worked through step by step. The key is more in a knowledgeable and flexible handling of the model by the coach. Understanding different types of goals and their importance for change, as well as accompanying goal-setting processes, enables professional coaches to work effectively with their clients on insights and behavioral changes that affect their work performance, their work experience and - and this is the most important point - their personal well-being and Increase self-image.


This article describes well-known theories on goal alignment, goal articulation and goal implementation. Based on the elements described, an integrative model of goal-oriented coaching is developed. The model can support coaches to help their clients in aligning and implementing goals. Goals are thereby not considered as monolithic constructs, but as multi-faceted elements of a coaching process. Thus, the model cannot be executed step-by-step. The key to success lies more in a competent and flexible handling of the model by the coach. By understanding the different types of goals and their relationship to the process of change, and through facilitating the goal alignment process, professional coaches can work more efficiently with their clients, helping them to achieve insight and behavioral change that enhances their workplace performance, their professional working lives and, most importantly, their own personal well-being and sense of self.

Oddly enough, the use of goals in coaching is controversial. Those who speak out against goal setting in coaching argue that it would limit coaching conversations and prevent other questions from arising, or that goal setting usually relates to topics that are easily measured but not real Have meaning. Others say that goal setting too often results in coaches pushing clients towards a pre-agreed but inappropriate goal, and that this approach results in "lazy" mechanical coaching. Some coaches even claim that they never use goals in coaching. Instead, they would help their clients discover their values ​​and clarify their intentions, and then work with them to make their wishes come true. Still other coaches speak of helping their clients to rewrite their personal history, to realign the compass, to move safely through the chaos of life, or to inspire development and transformation.

Goal setting even has a bad rap in some areas of academic psychology. Authors discuss the setting of goals has gotten out of control and complain about the supposed overuse of goals in organizations (Ordóñez et al. 2009). The limits of goal setting are also discussed in the coaching literature (Clutterbuck 2008, 2010).

All of these points must be taken seriously. Even so, I believe that goal theory has a lot to offer to coaching research and practice. There is extensive research on goals and objectives that has grown over many years. A search in the PsycINFO database in April 2015 with the keyword “goals” yielded over 73,118 hits. The scientific literature on the use of goals in executive coaching is much smaller, however, and yielded just 52 hits for the keywords "goals" and "executive coaching". Most studies look at the different uses of goals in executive coaching (e.g. Bono et al. 2009; Cowan 2013; Gregory and Levy 2015; Lewis-Duarte 2010; McKenna and Davis 2009b; Stern 2009), while only a few Empirical studies examine how executive coaching influences the achievement of goals (e.g. Benavides 2009; Burke and Linley 2007; Freedman and Perry 2010; Grant et al. 2009; Milare and Yoshida 2009; Schnell 2005; Smither et al. 2003; Turner 2004) . Amazingly few articles discuss theoretical references that explicitly link goal theory with executive coaching. For example, both Gregory and Levy (2015) and Gregory et al. (2011) suggest that control theory (in which goals and feedback are two crucial elements) can provide an important frame of reference for coaching, and Grant (2006) describes an integrative, goal-oriented approach to executive coaching.

The article is based on various English contributions and supplements previous publications (Grant 2002, 2006, 2013a, b). It is based on the goal-setting, self-determination and personality literature of the behavioral sciences, discusses the concept of 'goals', presents a goal definition suitable for coaching practice and describes a model of goal-oriented coaching that integrates a number of different perspectives on goal theory and these Making knowledge tangible and applicable in the coaching context. In addition, a research project is presented that ascribes a central role to the goal-orientation skills of a coach in relation to successful results in coaching.

Do SMART goals support unclean thinking in coaching?

Goals and goal constructs have been extensively discussed and researched in academic psychology (Moskowitz and Grant 2009), and a differentiated understanding of goals and their significance for human behavior has developed in the relevant literature. However, this does not apply to the coaching literature. An overview of these shows that many coaches' understanding of goals is limited to acronyms such as SMART (originally described by Doran 1981; Raia 1965) - an acronym that equates goals with specific, measurable and achievable, relevant and time-bound action plans (Note: the exact interpretation of the acronym differs depending on the author).

While the concepts contained in the SMART acronym are in fact largely backed by goal theory (e.g. Locke 1996) and may prove useful in some coaching situations, I believe that the popular belief that goals are the same as SMARTs Action plans made it difficult to develop a differentiated understanding and use of target theory in coaching. It is important to note that acronyms such as SMART are useful reminders - easy-to-remember points of orientation for complex contexts. However, the use of such memory aids without a clear understanding of the underlying relationships can easily lead to improper thinking: to irrelevant decisions and the spread of a misunderstood and mythical doctrine that makes it difficult for practitioners to grapple with the underlying relationships. I hope this article will take the subject forward.

What are goals?

If this article is to make a meaningful contribution with regard to a more differentiated use of goals and goal theory in coaching, we first need a clear understanding of what we mean by goals. The term “goal” is commonly understood to mean “the end toward which an effort is directed; a guideline or result ”(see e.g. While such definitions are sufficient in everyday life, in coaching we need a more detailed understanding of the construct. In order to enable a differentiated elaboration of the construct “goal”, many other terms have been suggested by researchers over the years, including “reference values” (Carver and Scheier 1998), “self-guides”. (Higgins 1987), “personal strivings” (Emmons 1992) or “personal projects” (Little 1993). Such broad definitions, however, do not make it possible to differentiate between goals, wishes and results, nor do they capture the essence of the target construct.

As mentioned before, goals make sense with regard to change processes in which goals play a role in the transition from an actual state to a desired state or result (e.g. Klinger 1975; Spence 2007). As such, the goal construct has been described in terms of cognitions (Locke 2000), behavior (Bergh et al. 2001; Warshaw and Davis 1985), and affect (Pervin 1982) (for a further consideration of these points see Street 2002). Since these three areas are of great relevance to coaching, I believe that a definition of goals for coaching should encompass all three.

Cochran and Tesser (1996) offer an understandable description of goals as a “cognitive image of an ideal that is stored in the memory for comparison with an actual state; a representation of the future that affects the present; a wish (joy and satisfaction are expected through goal success); a source of motivation, an incentive to act ”(p. 100, quoted from Street 2002). This understanding of goals could prove particularly useful for coaching because, as Street (2002) argues, it emphasizes the importance of cognition (as cognitive images), as well as that of affect and behavior. In addition, the purpose of a goal as a “source of motivation and incentive” is explicitly named, which is also of great relevance for coaching.

While this description offers a clear advantage over the view that goals should be equated with SMART action plans, it is a bit unwieldy as a working definition. A concise definition that contains the essentials and is at the same time easily applicable comes from Austin and Vancouver (1996). They describe goals as "internal representations of desired states or results" (p. 388).

Goals play a central role in coaching

Definitions of coaching abound. The International Coaching Federation ICF defines coaching as “engaging with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (ICF 2012). The Association for Coaching defines coaching as a "systematic, solution- and result-oriented process in which the coach supports the increase in work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee" (AC 2012). The World Association of Business Coaches defines business coaching as a structured conversation with the aim of “promoting the awareness and behavior of the client so that the client's and his / her organization's business goals are achieved” (WABC 2012 ). The European Mentoring and Coaching Council explains that coaching (and mentoring) are “professional and personal development activities ... that support clients, ... see and try alternative ways of improving their skills, decision-making and quality of life, ... with the aim of Clients increase their performance and / or develop personally ... ”(EMCC 2011).

Apparently there is a high degree of agreement between the professional coaching associations on the nature of coaching. All of the definitions of coaching listed describe that coaching essentially supports individuals in regulating their intra- and interpersonal resources and aligning them to achieve targeted, positive changes in their private or professional life. In essence, coaching is about supporting clients in their self-regulation skills in order to consciously bring about positive changes in their lives.

Self-regulation is at the heart of the coaching process

Self-regulation as a construct is understood as a sequence of processes in which the individual sets goals, designs a plan of action, begins to implement it, observes his own performance, evaluates it in comparison to a standard, and adjusts his actions based on this evaluation, to improve his performance and better achieve his goals (Carver and Scheier 1998). In coaching, it is the coach's task to support his / her coachee's progress through the self-regulation cycle. Fig. 1 shows a generic model of self-regulation.

In practice, the individual steps of the self-regulation cycle cannot be clearly separated. Each stage overlaps with the next. Ideally, coaching supports the transition to the next higher level at each level. For example, the objective should be set in such a way that the development and implementation of an action plan results from it. The action plan, in turn, should motivate the individual to act and at the same time contain specific points on how their own behavior can be observed and evaluated so that this information is available for joint work in subsequent coaching sessions.

This process is clearly the focus of coaching. This is also clear in the above-cited definitions of coaching drawn up by the professional associations, in which an active orientation towards a consciously designed, positive change is a central part of the coaching discussions. In this respect, all coaching discussions are explicitly or implicitly goal-oriented.

Knowing when and how goals are set in coaching and assessing whether one should have an explicitly goal-oriented conversation with clients or rather work with abstract and vaguely formulated goals are skills that distinguish beginning coaches from experienced coaches (Grant 2011; Peterson 2011 ). A solid understanding of the multifaceted nature of goal setting options is therefore helpful in making the transition from beginner to expert. We now turn to this point.

The diversity of goals

Goals are not a monolithic construct. If we want to understand coaching through goal theory, it is important to distinguish between different types of goals. There are over 20 different types of goals that can be used in coaching, for example result goals, distal and proximal goals, approach and avoidance goals, performance and learning goals, higher and lower order goals, and the very concrete results that the coachee can achieve want to achieve. Since different types of goals have different effects on the success and experience of a coachee in the process of striving for goals, these are important distinctions.

The time frame

Giving goals a time frame is an important part of the goal setting process and can influence the coachee's perception of the attainability of the goal (Karniol and Ross 1996). Distal goals are long-term goals. They are similar to the vision statements that are so popular in corporate and management literature, or the “broad, fuzzy visions” of life coaching literature (Grant and Green 2004). Proximal goals are short-term, stimulate more precise planning than distal goals (Manderlink and Harackiewicz 1984) and are therefore helpful in developing action plans. Basically, the action steps that are usually worked out in coaching sessions are nothing more than a series of proximal goals. Combining distal and proximal goals in the coaching process can lead to improved strategy development and increased long-term success (Weldon and Yun 2000).

Results targets

Many coaching programs explicitly focus on outcome goals. As a rule, these correspond to the direct formulation of a desired result (Hudson 1999); For example: "Increase the sales of the product by 15% in the next 3 months". This is a beneficial way of setting goals because challenging, specific, and explicitly formulated outcome goals allow precise focus in work efforts and lead to high performance in individuals with commitment, knowledge, and skills (Locke 1996). Indeed, many coaching programs focus solely on the use of specific SMART goals, and this approach is also supported by some of the goal setting literature (Locke and Latham 2002).

Nonetheless, over-specific results goals can alienate coachees and even lead to a decline in performance (Winters and Latham 1996). In the case of individuals who are in a deliberative or contemplative phase in their process of change (Gollwitzer 1999), it can be helpful to choose abstract or vague goals and develop a broad, fuzzy vision instead of delving into details and setting concrete goals to force.Individuals at such points in the change process usually perceive vague goals as less threatening and challenging (Dewck 1986).

Approach and avoidance goals

AvoidanceGoals are expressed as moving away from an undesirable state, for example “I want to be less stressful at work”. Although they are similar to outcome goals, avoidance goals do not specifically name their goal and provide no indication of what behavior might be beneficial to achieve the goal. In contrast, push yourself Approximationaim as a movement towards a certain result or a certain state, for example “I want to enjoy a pleasant balance between work and leisure”. Unsurprisingly, approach and avoidance goals are associated with different effects. Coats et al. (1996) found people with a tendency towards avoidance goals to be more depressed and less well-being. Other studies have associated the long-term pursuit of avoidance goals with lower well-being (Elliot et al. 1997), and approach goals with higher academic performance and increased well-being (Elliot and McGregor 2001).

Performance and learning goals

Performance goals focus on taking action. They convey motivation. The goal is to do well on a given task, to get good feedback from others, or to outdo others. When it comes to performance goals, the coachees usually concentrate on their personal abilities (Gresham et al. 1988). In executive or business coaching, a performance goal could be: “I want to be the best lawyer in my field.” Performance goals can be powerful motivators, especially if you get success early on. However, performance goals can also prevent performance. This is particularly true if the task is a very complex task or the goal is experienced as very challenging, and at the same time the available resources are scarce or the coachee has poor skills or a sense of self-efficacy. In addition, performance goals in situations where there is a lot at stake or which are characterized by competition can also encourage dishonest behavior or an unwillingness to cooperate. The corporate world is full of such examples (Midgley et al. 2001).

In many cases, therefore, learning objectives are better suited to increasing work performance (Seijts and Latham 2001). Learning goals (sometimes called task mastery goals) focus on the learning process that goes along with task mastery, rather than concentrating on the task itself. An example of a learning objective in executive or business coaching could be: “I am learning how to be the best lawyer in my field.” Learning objectives are associated with a number of positive effects, e. B. that complex tasks are experienced not as threatening, but as positive challenges, or that they lead to a deeper focus on a work task (Deci and Ryan 2002) and to increased memory performance and well-being (Linnenbrink et al. 1999). If team goals are formulated as learning goals, individual performance in highly complex situations can also increase and cooperation between team members can be strengthened (Kristof-Brown & Stevens 2001). One advantage of setting learning goals is that they are associated with higher intrinsic motivation, which in turn is associated with performance (Sarrazin et al. 2002).

Although the different formulation of these types of goals is apparently just a question of semantics, the type of goal formulation actually plays a crucial role (Rawsthorne and Elliot 1999), and coaches should take these nuances seriously if they want to work effectively with a goal-oriented approach.

Complementary and Competing Goals

In addition, coaches should more competitive or more contradicting Be aware of goals. These occur when the pursuit of one goal interferes with the pursuit of another goal. Sometimes conflicting goals are easy to spot, for example when there are two goals such as: "I want to spend more time with my family." And "I want to give my work more time in order to be promoted." However, a conflict of goals is by no means always the case obviously. For example, the goal “My sales staff should achieve higher sales” could be in a perceived conflict with the goal “implement a less authoritarian management style” if the coachee (a sales manager) finds it difficult to delegate and use a controlling management style is used to with his / her employees.

In such situations, a coach's ability to align seemingly contradicting goals and develop complementary goals from them is required. Sheldon and Kasser (1995) argue that congruence is important for goal attainment and wellbeing.

Unconscious goals?

Man is a goal-oriented being. Without goals, we could not exist as conscious sentient beings. Carver and Scheier (1998) argue that human behavior is a continuous movement towards or away from mental target representations. But that does not mean that you are aware of all of these goals. We often pursue complex, result-oriented behavior without consciously setting goals.

For example, I could sit at home and decide to go to the corner store to buy cookies and then enjoy my afternoon tea at home with cookies. So my overall and conscious goal is to buy cookies, make tea and enjoy my break. With that goal in mind, I put on my shoes, pocket my wallet, and head to the store, making sure to look both ways before crossing the street. In the shop I choose the biscuits, talk to the shop owner, buy my biscuits, return home safe and sound, and put the water on. Each of these actions is based on its own goal, but hardly any of these goals were consciously hit. But since such goal states influence our behavior even if we are not aware of them, goal theory can help coaches to recognize such dynamics and to support their clients in exploring, identifying and changing obstructive, implicit goals so that one makes sense , positive change is less in the way. (For a full discussion of how actions can be initiated and motivated by unconscious goals, see Custers and Aarts 2010).

Self-concordant goals

A coachee is usually much more committed to self-congruent goals that correspond to his / her innermost values ​​or to his / her desired direction of development. Self-concordance theory (Sheldon and Elliot 1998) provides coaches with a valuable frame of reference for working with the motivations and motivations that underlie goal selection and pursuit.

Self-concordance refers to the degree to which a goal aligns with an individual's intrinsic interests, motivations, and values. It shows the connection between values ​​and goals in a simple and powerful way. Derived from self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan 1980), the self-concordance model emphasizes the extent to which an individual experiences his goals as those of his own, authentic self or as externally imposed.

The self-concordance approach describes the perceived origin of causality on a continuum between controlled (external) factors and internal (autonomous) aspects. It is important to emphasize that the individual's perception determines the extent to which a goal is perceived as integrated and where it fits on the continuum between internal and external. It is crucial that the goals of a coachee are as self-congruent as possible, and it may be that coaches in the coaching process have to work actively to ensure that the goals of their coachee are congruent with his / her person and his / her sense of congruence get in tune.

At least four factors favor an effective adjustment in this sense (Sheldon and Elliot 1999): First, the coachee must learn to distinguish persistent and authentic desires from temporary or superficial whims so that his / her efforts are effectively directed. Second, the coachee needs to recognize which goals represent his / her own interests and which of his / her goals represent the interests of others (Sheldon 2002). These findings require a high level of awareness. Since there are significant differences in individuals in their level of self-awareness (Church 1997), this step can be very difficult for some coachees. Thirdly, the content of the goals must be formulated in such a way that they match the internal needs and values ​​of the coachee. Fourth, the coach must recognize when a goal is not self-concordant and be able to reformulate or reinterpret the goal to meet the needs and values ​​of the coachee.

Target hierarchies

Target hierarchies offer the possibility of operationalizing self-concordance and making it tangible, while at the same time establishing relationships between values, goals and specific action steps. Goals can be arranged hierarchically by summarizing concrete, specific goals under large, abstract goals (Chulef et al. 2001), similar to the “Big Five” personality traits (Costa and McCrae 1992). Accordingly, abstract goals such as “being a successful company leader” are ranked higher vertically than the lower-order specific goal of “increasing company profits by 25% in the next quarter”. There is empirical evidence to support this view (Chulef et al. 2001; Oishi et al. 1998).

From this perspective, higher-order goals can be equated with values. One approach of how goal theory can be used profitably for coaching is to understand values ​​as higher-level, abstract goals that are superior to lower, specific goals, which in turn take precedence over specific action steps.

Illustrating values, goals and actions in this way as part of a hierarchy gives coaches an extremely supportive frame of reference for developing case concepts in their coaching practice (Fig. 2).

In order to use this model in coaching practice it is important to establish vertical and horizontal congruence as much as possible. Vertical alignment means that not only the goals are in harmony with the highest values ​​of the client, but also all actions leading to them. In addition, a horizontal alignment is important so that the goals are complementary and mutually supportive, rather than competing or contradicting one another as previously mentioned. Because that would mean that pursuing one goal interferes with pursuing another. Of course, such an alignment is not always possible. Nevertheless, simply showing competing or contradicting goals or a lack of fit between goals and values ​​can open up new insights and perspectives for the coachees, which in turn invites new possibilities for how the change process can be designed.

Neglect of goals

The hierarchy model is also helpful for coaching because it can clearly show the effects of neglecting goals. Neglecting goals is rarely mentioned in the coaching literature, although the concept has important consequences for coaching practice. It refers to the disregard of a goal or a task, although it was recognized as important (Duncan et al. 1996). Goal neglect occurs when we do not pay attention to a defined, important goal, but instead focus on another goal or task, so that a discrepancy arises between the actions required for the original goal and the actions actually performed.

Humans are by their nature goal-directed organisms (Deci and Ryan 2002). All behavior (behavior is broadly defined here and includes thoughts, feelings and physical actions) receives its form, direction, meaning and meaning through the goal we pursue. A large part of our behavior is determined by goals that are beyond our immediately conscious attention. If we use the goal hierarchy model, it is the higher order goals that give direction, meaning and importance to the lower order goals and actions.

If self-regulation cannot work at the higher levels of a goal hierarchy (for example, because these values ​​are not given sufficient attention), goals at lower levels take over and dominate the outward behavior (Carver and Scheier 1998). The management of the human system is therefore at a lower level of behavior (regresses).

This seemingly technical, psychological understanding is important for coaching practice. This is because the subordinate goals of a hierarchy typically hardly have any significance compared to the higher goals. Because the subordinate goals are mostly unpleasant tasks that only become palatable to us because we follow our higher values ​​by fulfilling them.

If we fail to consistently keep the higher values ​​of our hierarchy of goals in focus and focus too much on achieving lower goals, the latter become our overarching and dominant values. The lower goals in themselves, however, are often extremely unsatisfactory.

In the example below, the overall goal is "to be an outstanding attorney," and many graduates are likely to enter the legal profession with the intent to become outstanding attorneys and help their clients achieve justice (Fig. 3) . To become outstanding lawyers, you need to work hard, make specific contributions to your law firm, and generate sufficient income. The achievement of these intermediate goals, in turn, is only achieved through sub-goals such as administration, invoicing and the like. Too often individuals pay too much attention to these lower goal levels (such as earning income and writing bills), and thereby lose sight of their higher values, which easily leads to goal dissatisfaction and loss of purpose in relation to one's own activity.

This frame of reference can provide coaches and their coachees with valuable insights into the psychological mechanisms underlying goal dissatisfaction and can help develop tools and techniques that are helpful for clients in their coaching process. For example, when we help clients focus their attention on more abstract goals, we help them connect with their higher values. They may then redefine their specific goals, feel revitalized and re-involved in a meaningful, positive change process.


As can be seen from this brief overview of some central constructs, goal theory has a lot to offer coaching practice. The question now is how the information can be arranged in such a way that it is as easily accessible and useful as possible for coaching practice?

One answer to how this extensive knowledge can be structured is the visual model in Fig. 4. It shows various factors related to goal-oriented coaching in their contexts. But be careful: As with all models, this only shows a few and by no means all the ways in which the factors interact with each other in coaching. It represents my own understanding and personal experience, and I would like to encourage readers to explore the limitations of this model against the background of their own coaching experience, to adapt and expand it to form a personally fitting frame of reference.

The model tries to reflect key aspects of goal-oriented coaching and underlines certain factors that are particularly important in the coaching process. The process as a whole is motivated by certain needs (shown in the model on the left), for which both individual and contextual / organizational factors play a role. These needs influence the individual's participation in the goal setting process. Individual factors include perceived deficits and opportunities, psychological needs, personality structure and available resources (or their lack). Examples of contextual or organizational factors include the complexity of the system, the social culture, the nature of interpersonal relationships, rewards and punishments, and available resources (or lack thereof).

The goal setting process is rarely straightforward. Even where coaching is commissioned by an organization with a specific goal in mind, the goal-setting process can be confused and complex. It is a common pitfall to set specific goals too early and too hastily in the coaching process.While key issues and broad initial goals need to be discussed very early in order to give the dialogue a purpose and direction, the coach should consider a number of factors when choosing a target. An important factor here is how coachees take up and engage with the coaching process.

Some coachees come to their first coaching appointment with little idea about coaching. The suitability and clarity of the coaching agreement (formal or informal) then plays just as important a role for the coachees' involvement in the target selection process as the degree of autonomy in target selection.

Goal setting moderators: The characteristics of the coachees

Another factor that influences the goal selection process is the willingness of the coachee to change. Coaches need to consider whether the coachees are at the stage of lack of intent, preparation, or action in their change processes (for a helpful reference for applying the transtheoretical model to a range of goals, see Prochaska et al. 1994). The transtheoretical model postulates that change involves going through a series of identifiable, overlapping stages. Five of these stages are directly relevant to goal setting in coaching. These stages are:

  1. 1.

    Unintentionality: No intention to change in the foreseeable future.

  2. 2.

    Intention Formation: Consider changing without doing anything.

  3. 3.

    preparation: Increased willingness to change and intention to change in the near future; usually the first small steps have already been taken.

  4. 4.

    plot: Showing new behaviors for a short time (less than 6 months)

  5. 5.

    conservation: Permanent showing of the new behavior over a certain period of time (approx. 6 months).

Stage-specific coaching strategies

In the phase of Unintentional The main aim is to increase the coachee's awareness and to make as much information as possible available to them so that they are stimulated to act. There are many ways to raise awareness. These include, for example, multi-rater feedback forms, qualitative feedback, sales or performance figures, or other relevant information.

The phase of Intention Formation is primarily characterized by ambivalence, the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting desires, feelings, beliefs or opinions. Most importantly, individuals in the intent phase need to be helped to explore this ambivalence and should not be pressured to set a goal until they are ready. Setting goals too early or too precisely in this phase often leads to coachees withdrawing internally from the goal selection process.

In the Preparation phase the coachee goes into the starting blocks for change. The goal of this phase is to make change binding. The coach should help the coachee to develop a clear vision of the future (abstract goals) and to take small, easily achievable but consistent steps in this direction. Progress should be closely monitored during this phase, and new, desired behavior should be reinforced by recognizing and celebrating the achievement of small sub-goals.

In the Action and maintenance phase builds on previous successes and maximizes self-directed change. For this, more challenging goals are set and strategies are designed how the change can be maintained over time.

It is an art to use goals effectively in coaching. Other factors that affect target selection are the extent to which the coachee feels autonomy and a say in target selection, as well as his / her ability to take on upcoming tasks and react flexibly to adversity.

Moderators in the coaching session

Also in the coaching session itself there are a number of factors that influence the goal selection process. This includes the skills of the coach to set effective goals and to enable action planning, as well as to support the goal-oriented self-regulation of the coachee in such a way that maximum target congruence results.

The success of the foregoing also depends on whether the coach can add perceived value to the session and build a strong alliance with the coachee (Gray 2007). All theoretical knowledge about the goal theory leads to nothing if the coach cannot implement it by directing the process of goal striving, the coachee takes responsibility and works in a solution and result-oriented manner.

Target selection and action planning

Target selection and action planning are results of the target selection process. Although the model depicts them as linear processes, it is important to emphasize that they are actually iterative, with back and forth between phases. Parameters of target selection and action planning include target difficulty and specificity, whether they are approach or avoidance goals, the time frame (distal or proximal), and the performance or learning orientation.

Targeting is a necessary but not a sufficient part of the coaching process; action plans must also be forged and carried out. In the action plan, a systematic way to achieve the goals is developed. This is particularly important for individuals who have poor self-regulatory skills (Kirschenbaum, Humphrey, and Malett 1981). The role of the coach is to support the coachee in creating a realistic, feasible action plan and appropriate strategies, so that his / her goal striving, his / her will to perform and perseverance are stimulated and can endure even if difficulties arise.