Top Coaching Questions for SMART Goals | College of Executive Coaching
Coaching Article

Top Coaching Questions for SMART Goals

By Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., MCC

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What are the best type of coaching questions to ask when using SMART goals? Of course, that depends on the needs and the situation of your client or colleague. Are their principles that will help you design coaching questions that parallel smart goals? Are their key strategic questions that are fundamental to utilize?

Top Coaching Questions for SMART Goals

The answer is yes and in this article I will describe the key SMART goal coaching question strategies. In a previous article I gave credit to George Doran who originally created the SMART Goal acronym which we define as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Unclear goals are one of the biggest stumbling blocks to effective goal setting and performance. Effective goals are clear, specific, measurable and time-bound. Measurable goals channel you to focus your efforts.

Zig Ziglar, author of the bestseller, See You at the Top, which sold two million copies said, "A goal properly set is halfway reached."

The value of the SMART goal process is it’s a tool to help your client create specific, measurable goals—and those are the types of goals that 35 years of research says will be more likely to be achieved.

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A SMART goal names the clear outcome of what the client wants to achieve. Remember that the goal process is not the "how"—the "how" will come next. Your job as coach when helping a client to create SMART goals is to facilitate them to describe clearly where they want to go in a measurable manner and by a specific deadline.

SMART Goal Coaching Questions

Here are favorite SMART goal coaching questions of experienced coaches. Remember to always customize these questions to the client.


  • You help the client clearly state where they are going.
  • What specifically do you want to accomplish?
  • What can you say to describe the outcome you want even more clearly?
  • Name a reasonable time-frame and tell me in detail what you are going to have done by then?
  • Paint me a picture of what it will look like when you are successful in achieving this goal?


  • You assist your client in identifying a way they will measure their progress.
  • How will you know when you have achieved this goal?
  • What number on a 10 point scale would represent success for you on this goal? What specifically would it look like when you hit that number?
  • What would be one of the best ways for you to measure success on this goal?


  • The goal is something your client can achieve.
  • How confident are you that this goal is definitely attainable for you?
  • On a 1-10 scale, 10 being absolutely attainable, where is this goal on that scale of attainability?


  • This goal is an important priority for your client.
  • What is important about this goal for you?
  • What will be different that is especially meaningful for you when you achieve this goal?
  • How does this goal relate to your most important values?


  • Your client has a specific deadline by when they will have achieved this goal.
  • What is your deadline to accomplish this?
  • When will you have reached this goal to a high degree of satisfaction?
  • By when do you want to achieve this?
  • What date will you have made significant progress on completing this achievement?

After the SMART goals are identified the next is to help the client brainstorm action steps to achieve their goal.

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