Turn a challenge into a goal: A coaching tool for the new year

Anna Warren

New Year Image

It’s almost a new year!  During my tenure as a Principal Coach, I looked forward to coming back to work after the winter break, knowing that January was a busy month for coaching.    

Renewed, determined, and armed with their resolutions, administrators were ready.  Ready to be more balanced.   Ready to forge ahead with school improvement goals. Ready to tackle challenges. Ready for change.  

In my role, I most often helped school leaders through scheduled, structured leadership coaching sessions.   I had some   tools to guide those coaching conversations. One of my favorites for the new year(because of its effectiveness and its focus on goals) is the Challenge to Action tool.   

Here’s how it works:    

  1.       The educator states a challenge.
  2.       Ask the educator to turn the challenge into a goal. 

Here's an example:

Challenge: I am having trouble getting along with my teammate and we are required to plan together.

Challenge turned into a goal: I want to work well with my teammate so that we can successfully plan together.

       3.     Ask the educator to list ways they“want to be” as they strive to reach the      goal. Tell them to use adjectives and other descriptors.  

Note: It’s tempting to skip this step, but don’t. This allows the educator to visualize themselves working toward achieving the goal. 

Continuing with the example above, the educator might say,

“I want to be open-minded, helpful, professional, willing, curious, a contributor, a friend, non-emotional.”

 If you have time, ask the educator to dive deeper into these:  “What does that look like for you? Sound like? Feel like?”

       4.     Now that the educator has a good picture of himself as he works to accomplish the goal, ask him to generate a list of actions.

  • I’m going to get to know my teammate better.
  • I’m going to suggest that we both do a strengths assessment and share the results with each other.
  • I’m going to be okay with him taking charge of the Science lesson plans.
  • I’m going to read a couple of books about working with people.   
  • I’m going to talk to my mentor about this.
  • I’m going to have a conversation with my teammate, letting him know I’m working on understanding his planning style. 
  • I’m going to ask for weekly check-ins, in between our planning sessions.
  • I’m going to ask my teammate to share his ideas on how we can be more successful. 
Give your “coachee” time to think.  Script for them, if they want it in writing.  When they run out of ideas, nudge them:  “Give me one more.”  “What else?”  “Give me something wild and crazy.”  With their permission, share some ideas that you have. 


5.        Review the list. And ask, “Which actions can you commit to doing, so that you reach your goal?”  

         Highlight those actions, prioritize them if needed, and add due dates, if desired.  

6.      Ask the educator, “How can I support you in reaching your goal?”

7.      Support them in the way you have promised.  

         Check in with them, encourage them, have another conversation to address any barriers they encounter while working toward the goal.   

The Challenge to Action tool is a good tool to jump start things in January.  But guess what? It works during any time of the year! Have fun with it, and Happy New Year!          


About the author:  Anna leads the Educator Evaluation and Leadership Team in Statewide Leadership Initiatives   at Region 13 Education Service Center.Follow her on Twitter @AnnaLdrshpCoach .  

Thursday, December 15, 2016