With an idea of the potential current bottleneck at the back of our mind, I ask the client to visualize the outcome he wants to achieve within the scope of the coaching. Usually clients don’t come up with a SMART goal right away. It is very common that they communicate a rather vague desire or what they don’t want any more but not a specific and measurable goal. I then help them transform what they have said into a SMART goal. SMART goals typically sound as follows: “By … I can / know / have / am …” In my definition SMART goals are:
S – self-attainable and specific, i.e. relating to specific situations, concrete, clear, pictorial and positively worded
M – measurable, if necessary through the senses, e.g. “I can recite my arguments composed and confident when I get criticized”
A – ambitious, i.e. attractive and realistic (in vision but not in reach)
R – result-oriented (and not comparison-oriented), i.e. focused on rewarding results (which preserve the so far positive)
T – time-phased, i.e. endued with a date and worded as if they were already achieved
In my view goals are working hypotheses, i.e. they are flexible. They are on and off checked on the way, and if indicated modified or abandoned.
Once the goal is clear I think of possible ways how it can be reached. The way I deem most appropriate, I then suggest to the client. If the client does not like the suggested way I propose an alternative until we agree on an approach.
This phase is all about exploring and evaluating options, making decisions and designing and implementing actions or, in other words, executing the changes necessary to reach the desired outcome.
When choosing my interventions I let myself be guided by Dilts’ logical levels. The estimation of the level on which the main bottleneck seems to be gives me an orientation what intervention might be helpful. For example, if a client is unclear about what he wants from his life and misses a direction for the future, it is very likely that the bottleneck is on the level of
identity and belonging.
The intervention should be addressing the next higher level (“spirituality and purpose” in this case). In the example a helpful question could be for instance
What would you like to contribute to this world?
Depending on the level on which the bottleneck is located changes respectively actions can refer to the client’s environment, his behavior, his capabilities and strategies, his beliefs and values, his identity and the meaning he ascribes to the situation.
Through questions like On a scale from 1-10, when 1 stands for <the first step towards the goal is made> and 10 stands for <the goal is achieved> where do you stand right now? followed by How did you make that possible? and What’s the difference between the … (e.g. 5) and the … (e.g. 4)?
I help the client check his results and measure the success of his endeavors. Questions like What would you be doing differently on a … (e.g. 6)? and What could you commit to right now that moves you forward? stipulate further actions and help the client move towards the desired outcome.
When pondering on where he stands it is possible that the client identifies a new bottleneck. In the example above, after having clarity around the question what he would like to contribute to the world, the new big question might be how he can put this into action and the bottleneck would then be on the level of capabilities and strategies.
Similarly it is possible that the client wants to adjust his goal. This happens for instance, when clients realize that it does not fully appeal to them anymore after they headed for it for some time.
When getting closer to the end of the agreed time frame I help the client harvest what he has achieved by asking questions like What are you taking away from this?
I sincerely acknowledge his endeavors and results and close with a request for feedback, e.g. by asking Is there anything I could have done differently to make it even more helpful for you? and/or by requesting him to fill in a written feedback form.