“Hey you. Yeah, you over there. What are you doing?” “If I don’t see that report on my desk by 3:00, you are fired!” It is amazing how powerful just a few words can be. Words can be used to put down, degrade, and discourage or to build up, edify, and encourage. Managers who try to lead with a command and control approach will likely get only what they ask for and not much more, but team members will not be motivated to be highly successful. A great leader is one who motivates others in a positive way and inspires them to accomplish tasks and assignments with effectiveness. The motivation of a team or workforce doesn’t necessarily lie on the teammates or the co-workers themselves, rather in the leader and coach who guides them.

In order for organizations to compete in today’s highly competitive economies, employees need leaders who inspire them, instill a desire for excellence, and have the ability to light a fire within their team. While there are many styles and theories on how to motivate others, a lot can be learned from the similarities and differences between two major theories: the goal theory and coaching.


A vital part of both the goal theory model and the coaching model is feedback. In order for goals to be achieved, one must receive immediate feedback to see where improvement is needed in order to accomplish the goal. Good coaching requires constant feedback on behaviors, attitudes, and skills for long-term change or improvement. It is important in both of these models to be specific and concise and avoid generalities or exaggerations.

Another similarity between the two is that the parties within both models must be in agreement, meaning that the followers must accept the goals and advice placed before them. If the one being coached rejects what the coach says, then little can be accomplished. Likewise, when a group member rejects the goals placed by the group or the leader, he or she will not be motivated to accomplish the goal completely or in a timely manner.

Finally, both theories support the notion that groups are more effective than individuals. With goal setting theory, employees working as a team toward a common goal are more productive and effective than individuals with individual goals. Likewise, in coaching, group members are considered part of the team and encouraged to serve as backup resources for each other. This then produces greater group performance.


The differences between coaching and the goal theory are very distinct. Goal setting is demanding. It often can cause frustration and tension when goals aren’t met and people become discouraged and dissatisfied. Goals themselves, the very basis of the theory, do not motivate. The motivating factor is a desire to avoid becoming a failure. Sometimes, this negative motivation can become so strong that a leader will demand from him/herself and others to do whatever it takes to reach a specific goal. In extreme cases this can even lead or result in unethical behavior.

On the other hand, coaching is about the person. It has to do with making permanent changes. Coaches are taught to listen attentively and genuinely care about the success and welfare of the team member. They do not get lost in goals or achieving personal greatness, but are committed to team accomplishments and personal pride. The coaching style motivates through praise, recognition, empowerment, personal development, and personal relationships. Unlike the goal theory, coaching provides a support system.


It is evident that the goal theory is more task-oriented, whereas coaching is more people-oriented. Coaching can be effective because a world-class coach will implement a form of goal theory in his/her coaching but will add support so that person can complete the goal successfully. These two theories can be highly effective if used in tandem to motivate and inspire others to greater performance.


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About the Author
Steele Kizerian

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