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The Dos and Don'ts of Executive Coaching (Part 2: Goal-Setting & Action Planning)

June 9, 2011

by Richard Gauthier, Linkage Master Coach

The second post in our four-part series from Linkage Master Coach Richard Gauthier addresses two critical phases in the coaching process: goal-setting and action planning:

  • Do be sure that your clients choose their one or two key developmental goals, not you or the boss. Your job is to coach and guide your clients through a change they have chosen to make. Your clients own the content, you own the process. Over a sustained period of time, clients will stay the course if the goal is of their choosing and for their personal benefit.
  • Don’t allow clients to use your coaching involvement to solve all the issues of their personal and professional lives. Given all else they have to do, one or two developmental goals relevant to their business or career objectives is reasonable and offers the best chance of success.
  • Do help clients frame the choice of development goal based on three criteria: their business objectives, the next step up in their career, and the feedback relevant to the former two. Ask what change can or should they make to better meet those professional and personal career objectives.
  • Don’t just set the goal by defining the current state and the desired future state. Once the goal is defined, the key is the action plan to attain the goal. What’s to be done? How will it be done? Who is needed to help? By when will it be done? And how will we measure whether or not we are on course? The best action plans outline both behaviors that have to be unlearned as well as new behaviors to adopt.
  • Do recognize that the key to improvement in action planning lies in “how” they’re going to do the work, not the “what” they plan to do. “What” simply defines their intentions, the improvement, the work, the blueprint and guidepost for your coaching is in the “how” column. Take your time on this part of the action plan; it will keep you both focused going forward.
  • Don’t settle for just goal-setting and action planning: complete the session with a cost/cost/benefit analysis. The repetition of “cost” is not a typo, but a reminder that cost has two parts. First, have your clients describe and record what it’s going to cost them if they don’t address the issues and develop according to plan. Second, have clients describe what it will cost them personally and professionally to make the changes defined by the plan. Finally, clients should describe the benefits of changing and accomplishing the desired change. Clients must do this with guidance but minimal input from the coach because when they hit the inevitable rough spots, it’s their words and their thoughts on what’s in it for them that will better sustain them.

About the Author:

Richard Gauthier

Richard Gauthier

Richard is a highly-skilled and respected consultant and executive coach with more than twenty-five years of experience in organizational development, leadership, marketing and communications.  Currently a Principal Consultant at Linkage, Richard addresses a wide spectrum of customer challenges in leadership, customer satisfaction and retention, change management, management development, alignment and total quality. 



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