8 Steps to Help Your Clients Reach Their Career Goals Faster | By Dr. Mickey Parsons, MCC

Client holding paper airplane for goals

Many people consult a coach because they want to accomplish something or change something about their lives but they can't figure out how to get there on their own.

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?

As coaches, we ask our clients these questions all the time. And if you work with managers, business leaders, professionals and other career-focused clients as I do, the replies typically go something like this:

  • I want to advance up the ladder at work.
  • I want to become more influential in my profession.
  • I want more recognition for my work.
  • I want to change departments in my firm.
  • I want to move up to an executive or leadership role.

But many of us do a terrible job reaching our goals. Inc. magazine reported that only 8% of people who set New Year's resolutions or goals actually accomplish them!

So whether your clients come into coaching with clearly articulated goals or they need help identifying their goals, your success as a coach will rest in part on your skill at guiding them to be more focused, analytical and strategic in their goal setting and their goal activation.

Here's a 8-step roadmap for setting and activating goals

Use this roadmap to facilitate and even accelerate this process for your clients—and in doing so, increase your success as a coach.

Step 1. Identify their overarching goal

We all need somewhere to start. So help your clients figure out an overarching goal to get started with.

For example: "I want to advance from my current role as an independent sales or IT professional to one where I manage a team and eventually move into an executive position."

Step 2. Help your clients reflect on why they want this goal

Identifying a clear "Why?" for why your client wants their goal helps people understand the benefits of achieving the goal to them - and makes it more likely they will succeed.

3 Questions to consider:

  • How will achieving your goal energize your work life?
  • How will it fulfill you personally?
  • Does it align with your core values and vision of who you want to be?

This step is really important! Getting clear on these types of questions will energize your clients for the work ahead.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You may also like our Free Understand the Why of Your Goals Coaching Tool

Step 3. Launch a personal fact-finding mission

Help your clients learn as much as they can about what it will take to reach their goal.

3 Questions to consider:

  • What skills do you need to develop?
  • What experience or professional training will help you advance?
  • Where do your strengths and weaknesses lie?

They can ask you, others whom they trust such as a mentor, boss, teammates, colleagues, direct reports and even friends.

Step 4. Make a list

Based on their research and self-reflection, help the client organize what they've learned into categories such as:

  • Skills to develop
  • Training or education to pursue
  • Relationships to cultivate
  • Goals or thresholds to reach in their current job
  • Deficits or weaknesses to overcome

Step 5. Prioritize

Help your client narrow down their list so they can focus their energies on those areas that will be of most value and where they feel most motivated to act.

Tip: This is also a good time to do an authenticity check. You could ask:

  • Are your goals in sync with your values? Are they aligned with your strengths?

Step 6. Develop SMART goals for the items on your list

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable and Realistic.

This means that rather than setting a general goal like "I will improve my management skills," you help your client identify the specific areas of management they need or want to improve. This could be something like coaching direct reports, giving timely feedback or fostering teamwork. Then help your client set specific goals for each specific area identified.

6 Tips for setting powerful goals:

  1. Use positive language.
  2. Define how they will measure success.
  3. Set a timeline.
  4. Make sure their goals reflect their own desires, not someone else's idea of what they should do or be.
  5. Set goals with the appropriate degree of challenge—neither too easy nor too difficult: goals should stretch you, but not so much that you end up discouraged.
  6. Write down your goals.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You may also like our Free SMART Goals - Complete Guide for Coaches (plus Special Report .PDF)

Step 7. Create action plans and a timeline

Help your clients break down their goals into bite-sized pieces. Then outline the steps and specific tasks they will complete to achieve each goal, along with a timeline for each.

This step is key. It's where you actually do the work that moves you forward.

3 Action plan examples:

  1. If the goal is improving your management of direct reports, your action plan might include:
  • Meeting with team members weekly
  • Giving on-the-spot feedback to three people every day
  • Completing a course in becoming a leader-coach by a certain date
  1. If your goal is to network more, your action plan might be to:
  • Attend three professional conferences in the next 12 months
  • And connect with a certain number of influential people at each conference
  1. If your goal is to improve your presentations to upper management, you might commit to:
  • Joining Toastmasters
  • And to giving your first public speech within the next three months

Step 8. Be accountable

Most of us can't do this work alone.

Working with a career coach, executive, management or leadership development coach like you gives people an all-important accountability partner to provide objective feedback about their path and progress, including a gentle push when they need it.

Finally, encourage your clients not to be shy about their intentions. They can let their boss, colleagues, friends and acquaintances know about their career goals. And whether at their current place of employment or externally, be sure to help your clients focus on how their success will benefit the organization.

If you liked this article, you may also like:

Dr. Mickey Parsons Headshot

Contributing Author:

Dr. Mickey Parsons, MCC, founded The Workplace Coach, LLC, in 1999. Since then, Mickey and The Workplace Coach's award-winning team have coached thousands of executives and leaders. Based in Atlanta, Mickey is also an assistant professor of coaching psychology and has a passion for coaching that extends to mentoring new and existing coaches and supporting leader coaches in obtaining their certifications through his Certified Leader Coach® program.

Learn more about Mickey & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client thinking about setting goals with paper airplane by Stuart Jenner via Shutterstock


  1. Lalage Jennifer Duncan

    This is a fantastic article, thank you for making it available at no cost. I am a trainee coach in the UK. I find your website a great boost to my motivation to qualify as a Personal Performance coach and to be a successful coach this year and beyond.

    • mturcott

      Thank you! So glad you are enjoying our resources and finding them helpful!
      Wishing you all the best this year!
      Warmly, Mary

    • mturcott

      Thank you, Mathangani! We're so glad you found this article helpful.
      Wishing you all the best in your business this year!
      Warmly, Mary


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