Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 6 May 2014


Rao, M.S. (2014), "Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 22 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring

Article Type: Suggested readings From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 22, Issue 3

Susan David, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson (Eds)Gower,2013,ISBN: 9781409418511

Susan David, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson’s edited book, Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring, challenges current thinking and traditional techniques for goal-achievement. It examines stimulating perspectives that have the potential to revolutionize the future of goal-setting. It also advances goal-setting theory by bringing together cutting-edge perspectives from leaders in coaching and mentoring.

The book explains that the academic study of goals dates from the early-1900s, when psychologists began investigating volition and willpower at Germany’s Wurzburg School. The goal images led to the formation of conscious or unconscious determining tendencies. These, in turn, prompted people to take action. Kurl Lewin – best known for his theory that behavior is a function of the person and the environment – studied the concept of intention. He went on to analyze forces that either helped or hindered people in their process of goal-pursuit.

The book explains that the practice of setting stretch goals was popularized in the 1990s at General Electric by the former chief executive, Jack Welch. He observed that in “reaching for the unattainable”, people were able to achieve far more than they believed they could.

Two acronyms dominate the practice of goal-pursuit. Grow (goals, reality, options and will) is a sequence for goal-management, while Smart (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) is a framework for goal-setting. When Smart goals are used habitually, and perhaps mindlessly, circumstances are viewed through a narrow lens. This can lead client and coach down a path that is overly constrictive and, at worst, completely off course. While Smart clearly has its place in the realm of goal-setting, this book calls attention to its limitations and supports coaches and mentors in advancing the practice.

The authors advance the view that feedback – internally or externally generated – plays an important role in coaching. Internally generated feedback comes from intrinsic observation by the client noticing what happens in situations relevant to the coaching purpose, or maintaining a learning log.

For coaches, identifying whether goals are intrinsically or extrinsically driven is critical in understanding a client’s motivation. Extrinsically driven goals may be much more difficult to link to personal values, which would tend to impel the style of coaching to a relatively mechanical form of skills acquisition or performance management. An issue to consider is how long a given change can last if it is driven mainly by extrinsic goals.

The authors explain that goals give purpose to conversations, match the expectations of employees and meet the needs of clients and sponsors. Coaching is necessarily a goal-directed activity.

Goal-setting and attainment have been popularly presented as a sine qua non of personal, career and organizational change. However, chaos theory in general, and the chaos theory of careers in particular, provides a new perspective on goal-setting that can help people to understand more fully what they are doing when they set goals, and what they are gaining and losing by so doing.

Goal setting, say the authors, is ubiquitous in today’s fast-changing society. We routinely set goals in the workplace, in volunteer settings and in personal life. But we may not be aware that goal-setting is more likely to enhance performance and outcomes in some situations as compared to others. A company may have a particular goal of its own, but there may be contextual elements that are changing outside the company, such as the environment or the economy. The company needs to adjust to these external circumstances.

Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring is a well-researched book with many coaching and mentoring takeaways for educators, coaches, mentors and leaders who are keen to acquire knowledge on coaching and mentoring from the perspective of goal-setting.

Reviewed by M.S. Rao, Professor International Leadership Guru,,