This post is part of a series on the 9 competencies of an effective coach, taken originally from Developing Coaching Excellence. To see all entries in this series posted so far, you can search “coach competency” on the main page of my blog. 

PlanningThe role of a coach is to help people understand God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and then help them cooperate with that agenda. That’s where planning comes in— helping people cooperate with God’s agenda. A vision without a plan is only a dream. Planning means coming up with the next steps that can bridge the vision into reality.

When someone has a goal they often have a lot of different ideas about how to get there, but without another person to help them unpack and categorize those ideas, it can all remain blurry and confused. Most people need assistance to get a clear, pragmatic plan put together. A good plan has enough clarity to stand alone— when it’s presented, others can understand it with little additional explanation.

SMART is a good acronym to follow in planning. A plan should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and have a Timeframe. If a plan breaks down on any one of those points, it will break down altogether. Coaches should guide people in making sure a plan meets these standards, but they must be sure the person being coached is the one who is developing the plan. People will not have ownership over something that has been externally imposed, not matter how good it may be. A coach’s role is simply to ask good questions to make sure all the bases have been covered: “What do you want to accomplish?” “How are you going to accomplish it?” “What are you going to do?” “Who’s going to be involved?” “By when will it be done?” After making sure a plan is consistent with the SMART model, it should then be committed to writing.

Sometimes people get bored with planning. They feel like it’s a meaningless activity and want to move on to action. Yet a lot of the troubles people face can be avoided by doing careful planning on the front end. Thinking through next steps to move toward a goal and laying out a clear way for getting there can make a world of difference.

How can you go about strengthening the coaching competency of planning in your life?