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Leading through objective setting and coaching




Your thinking skills can be considered directional skills because they set the direction for your organisation. They provide vision, purpose, and goal definition. These are you eyes to the future, allowing you to recognise the need for change, when to make it, how to implement it, and how to manage it. You find vision by reaching for any available reason to change, grow, and improve - find something that is not broken and make it better. Just as you perform preventive maintenance on your car, you must perform preventive maintenance on your organisation. Do NOT believe in the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the people who do, go broke! Treat every project as a change effort. Treat every job as a new learning experience.

Good organisations convey a strong vision of where they will be in the future. As a leader, you have to get your people to trust you and be sold on your vision. Using the leadership tools described in this guide and being honest and fair in all you do will provide you with the ammo you need to gain their trust. To sell them on your vision, you need to possess energy and display a positive attitude that is contagious. People want a strong vision of where they are going. No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end company going nowhere...or a company headed in the wrong direction. They want to be involved with a winner! And your people are the ones who will get you to that goal. You cannot do it alone!

When setting goals, keep these points in mind:

There are four characteristics (1) of goal setting:

The Six Steps of Goal Setting

Although finding a vision can be quite a creative challenge, the process of getting that vision implemented can be quite easy if you follow the steps: Vision - Goals - Objectives - Tasks - Time Lines - Follow Up:

Step 1

The first step in setting goals and priorities is to personally develop what the organisation should look like at some future point, that is, establish a vision. As a junior leader, such as a supervisor or manager, you will mainly be concerned with a department, section, or small group of people. While the senior leaders set the vision for the entire organisation, you set the vision for your team. And that vision needs to support the organisation's goals.

The mission of the organisation is crucial in determining your vision. Your vision needs to coincide with the "big picture." The term "vision" suggests a mental picture of what the future organisation will look like. The concept also implies a later time horizon. This time horizon tends to be mid to long term in nature, focusing on as much as 10, 20, or even 50 years in the future for visions affecting the entire organisation. Your visions should be on much shorter time horizons, such as 6 months to a year.

The concept of a vision has become a popular term within academic, government, defence, and corporate circles. This has spawned many different definitions of vision. But, the vision you want, should be a picture of where you want your department to be at a future date. For example, try to picture what your department would look like if it was perfect, or what the most efficient way to produce your product would look like, or perhaps if your budget was reduced by 10 percent, how you could still achieve the same quality product.

Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century economist, theorised that most effects come from relatively few causes; that is, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the possible causes. For example, 20% of the inventory items in the supply chain of an organisation accounts for 80% of the inventory value. Many people fall into the time wasting trap of going after the 80% of items that only have a value of 20% of the total net worth. They believe that since that since that 80% encompasses so much, they are really getting something accomplished. Your visions need to picture the 20% that will have the greatest effect on your organisation. Although it is nice to have small victories now and then by going after part of that easy 80%, focus on the few things that will have the greatest impact...that is what a good leader does.

Once you have your vision, it needs to be framed in general, unmeasurable terms and communicated to your team. Your team then develops the ends (objectives), ways (concepts), and means (resources) to achieve the vision.

Step 2

The second step involves establishing goals, with the active participation of the team. Goals are also stated in unmeasurable terms, but they are more focused. For example, "The organisation must reduce transportation costs." This establishes the framework of the your vision.

Step 3

Now you establish objectives, again with the active participation of your team. Definable objectives provide a way of measuring the evaluating movement toward vision achievement. This is the strategy of turning visions into reality. It is the crossover mechanism between your forecast of the future and the envisioned, desired future. Objectives are stated in precise, measurable terms such as "By the end of the next quarter, the shipping department will use one parcel service for shipping items under 100 pounds and one motor carrier for shipping items over a hundred pounds." The aim is to get general ownership by the entire team.


Think SMART: your objectives should be

Get your team to think SMART: it works equally well in work and at home and breaks through the 'excuse stories' we tell ourselves ("I'll write that book I've been promising myself, but first I need a new P.C.").

Step 4

The fourth step is to determine tasks. Through tasks, objectives are accomplished. Tasks are concrete, measurable events that must occur. An example might be, "The transportation co-ordinator will obtain detailed shipping rates from at least 10 motor carriers."

Step 5

Now it is time to establish a priority for the tasks. Since time is precious and many tasks must be accomplished before another can begin, establishing priorities helps your team to determine the order in which the tasks must be accomplished and by what date. For example, "The shipping rates will be obtained by May 9."

Step 6

The final step is to follow up, measure, and check to see if the team is doing what is required. This kind of leader involvement validates that the stated priorities are worthy of action. For the leader it demonstrates her commitment to see the matter through to a successful conclusion.


Supervision is keeping a grasp on the situation and ensuring that plans and policies are implemented properly. It includes giving instructions and inspecting the accomplishment of a task.

There is a narrow band of adequate supervision. On one side of the band is over-supervision; and on the other side is under-supervision. Over-supervision stifles initiative, breeds resentment, and lowers morale and motivation. Under-supervision leads to miscommunication, lack of co-ordination, and the perception by subordinates that the leader does not care. All employees benefit from appropriate supervision by seniors with more knowledge and experience who tend to see the situation more objectively.

Evaluating is part of supervising. It is defined as judging the worth, quality, or significance of people, ideas, or things. It includes looking at the ways people are accomplishing a task. It means getting feedback on how well something is being done and interpreting that feedback. People need feedback so that they judge their performance. Without it, they will keep performing tasks wrong, or stop performing the steps that makes their work great.

Use checklists to list tasks that need to be accomplished. Almost all of us have poor memories when it comes to remembering a list of details. List tasks by priorities. For example, "A" priorities must be done today, "B" priorities must be done by tomorrow, and "C" priorities need to be followed up with in a few days.

Double check on important things by following through. Strange things can happen if you are not aware of them. Paperwork gets lost, plans get changed, and people forget. If you have a system of checks and double checks, you will discover mistakes, have time to correct them, and minimise any disruptions. Following through may seem to be a waste of your time and energy, but in the long run, it pays off. You will spend less time and energy correcting mistakes and omissions made long ago.

Inspiring Your Employees

Getting people to accomplish something is much easier if they have the inspiration to do so. Inspire means "to breathe life into." And in order to perform that, we have to have some life ourselves. Three main actions will aid you in accomplishing this.

Be passionate. In organisations where the is a leader with great enthusiasm about a project, a trickle-down effect will occur. You must be committed to the work you are doing. If you do not communicate excitement, how can you expect your people to get worked up about it?

Get your employees involved in the decision making process. People who are involved in the decision making process participate much more enthusiastically than those who just carry out their boss's order. Help them contribute and tell them you value their opinions. Listen to them and incorporate their ideas when it makes sense to so.

Know what your organisation is about! The fundamental truth, as General Creighton W. Abrams used to say in the mid-1970s, is that "the Army is not made up of people. The Army is people. Every decision we make is a people issue." Your organisation is the may make a product or sell a service, but it is still people! A leader's primary responsibility is to develop people and enable them to reach their full potential. Your people may come from diverse backgrounds, but they all have goals they want to accomplish. Create a "people environment" where they truly can be all they can be.

Training and Coaching

Training and coaching are two different things, although some people use them interchangeably. Training is a structured lesson designed to provide the employee with the knowledge and skills to perform a task. Coaching, on the other hand, is a process designed to help the employee gain greater competence and to overcome barriers so as to improve job performance.

You might picture it as when you were school. During physical education, the gym teacher (trainer) taught you how to play basketball. Next you went out for the school team. You had a basic understanding of the game and its rules, but the coach taught you the finer points of the game.

So, as you can see, training and coaching go hand-in-hand. First you train them with lots of technical support, and then you coach them with motivational pointers.

Both training and coaching help to create the conditions that cause someone to learn and develop. People learn by the examples of others, by forming a picture in their minds of what they are trying to learn, by gaining and understanding necessary information, by applying it to their job, or practice.


The first condition of learning is that the person must be motivated to learn. You cannot teach knowledge or skills to someone who is not motivated to learn. He must feel the need to learn what you are teaching. Most employees are motivated to do a good job. They want to be able to perform their tasks correctly. Their motivation is being able to perform their job to standards in return for a paycheque, benefits, challenges, etc.

The next condition of learning is to involve them in the process. Keep their attention by actively involving their minds and emotions in the learning process. Have them participate through active practice of the skill or through discussion. You cannot keep their attention with a long lecture. Normally, people pay attention for a short time - less than 30 minutes. They need to use what is being taught or their minds will wander. If you lecture for an hour, very little will be remembered. Instead, give a brief lecture (less than 10 minutes), demonstrate, and then have them practice. Provide feedback throughout the practice period until they can do it on their own. If it is a large complicated task, then break it down into short learning steps.

Situational Leadership

Blanchard and Hersey developed a Situational Leadership (2) model that aids the leader in providing the correct level of training/coaching and motivation. They first developed one together, and later, Blanchard took off on his own with a slightly modified version. They are actually both correct, they were just looking at it from different viewpoints.

But anyway, good leaders provides the correct amount of training, coaching, and motivation depending upon the learning level of their students. The process follows a pattern similar to this:

  1. A person learns a new task as a beginner. She is enthusiastic to learn a new skill. She may be somewhat comprehensive because she about to enter a change process . She needs lots of clear instructions (training) because the task is new, and just a little bit of support (motivation) to calm the stress of change. Even if she is not real enthusiastic (she is being forced to learn a new task due to change) do NOT try to motivate her too much as it tends to overload the brain as she is also learning a new task...our brain can only take so many inputs. Do your motivation before the training period, not after.
  2. In the second step, the level of guidance from the leader lessens, so that the learner may experiment somewhat with the learning style that works best for her. She has now reached failure a few times in the process, so while technical support lessens, emotional support increases to keep her confidence high. Technical support is needed so that the failures do not become learned. While emotional support is required so that the learner does not give up. The emotional feedback needs to be specific, such as: "You did an excellent job with the..., now you need to..."; NOT, "You are doing just fine. Keep trying." The trainer at this point is now becoming part coach.
  3. At the next level, the learner has become capable in performing her new skill. The amount of training drops to just a few pointers so that the learner can experiment with her new skill. But she is still not sure about herself! Now, the amount of emotional support increases to build up her confidence. Now, the leader is more of a coach than trainer.
  4. Towards the end of the learning process, the employee now knows her job. Her leader provides very little coaching and support so that she can begin to take ownership of her tasks and responsibilities. She is allowed to perform with little or no direction. Now you delegate, as she encouraged to take on new responsibilities and new assignments...this is where the cycle repeats itself.


1. U.S. Army Handbook (1973). Military Leadership.

2. Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. (1977). Management of organisational behaviour: Utilising human resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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