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Coaching Next Steps to Achieving Goals

Posted: August 15, 2014 by Rob Voyle

In the coaching world great emphasis is placed on getting the client to take the next step. Yet despite taking lots of steps people often don't achieve their goals for two primary reasons:

• The goals are poorly formulated.
• Despite having a goal, they keep heading in the wrong direction.

This week I want to look at the direction we need to head. And here is a big secret that is often poorly understood in the coaching world:

If you really want to achieve your goal the next step may not be forwards,
and all the talk of "moving forward, breaking through, overcoming obstacles, etc." may be a waste of time and at worst could be a real hindrance.

To begin:

Think of a goal, that you would like to achieve, that just seems out of your reach...

Close your eyes and imagine reaching for the goal...

Now notice how your are reaching, with both hands, one hand, and if so which? ...

Now notice in which direction your hands are reaching...

In groups I often get people to stand and physically demonstrate reaching for a goal that is just out of your reach, and it is interesting to notice the wide variation in ways people reach and the direction in which they reach.

If you are reaching forward then taking a step forward will probably be helpful.


• If you are reaching up to achieve your goal you will never achieve it by stepping forwards: You will need to step up...

• If you are reaching to the right you will need to pay attention to what is right for you to do, and I think you know what is truly right for you to do...

• If you are reaching to the left you will need to pay attention to what is left to be done...

• If you feel above it all and the goal is beneath you, then you will need to take a step down...

• If you feel you are on a precipice or a cliff and that danger lies ahead, then you probably need to take a step back... You definitely wouldn't be helped by "break through coaching."

What I find fascinating is that when people struggle to achieve goals and I get them to demonstrate reaching for the goal and I respond by telling them they need to take a step up or do what is right, or what is left to do, they most often have a profound sense of knowing exactly what that is even when we have not discussed the specific details of what that might be.

Listening to the language people use and the way they organize their experiences is at the heart of competent coaching and leading. The English language has many words that have multiple meanings and at the deeper regions of consciousness our minds don't seem to know that words have multiple meaning. So we will put what is right for us to do on our right and what is left to do on our left.

Competent coaching often requires that we explore the direction people are traveling and not just assuming that they need to go forward with their plans.

Leading people is often about getting all the members heading in the same direction. If you are leading a group take a moment and think about what direction are you heading and notice what direction the members of the group are heading. Some are always stuck on what is right, others on what is left, others just want to press on regardless of what is right or left.

For many congregations that are dying, pressing on, going forward, or being more faithful and committed to the chosen path, will just get them dead quicker because they are heading in the direction of death. They need to change direction!

The technical term is repent, but I will leave that for Lent, in the meantime it is always time to discover and head in the direction of life.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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