Müller, A. A. & Kotte, S. (2020). Of SMART, GROW and goals gone wild: A systematic literature review on the relevance of goal activities in workplace coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review, 15(2), 69–98
Goals are posited to play an important role in coaching. However, concerns have been raised about neglecting potential pitfalls of goal-focused coaching practice. Therefore, we investigate the occurrence of goal activities in workplace coaching and their association with coaching outcomes. We conducted a systematic literature review. We synthesised findings of 24 (quantitative and qualitative) empirical studies. Previously researched goal activities encompass goal setting, setting action/development plans and a goal-focused coach-coachee relationship. Coaches report to work with goals frequently, while coachees report this to occur less. Several studies suggest a positive relationship between goal activities and coaching outcomes, while other studies report no significant association. This lack of association seems to relate to both study design and chosen outcome measures. Initial findings point to possible moderating variables (e.g. coachee characteristics, initiator of goal activity) and potential challenges of involving organisational stakeholders in goal activities. The scarcity of empirical research stands in contrast to the prominent role of goals in the coaching literature. Goal activities take a wide range of different forms in practice and research. Inconclusive findings on the relationship between goal activities and coaching outcomes call for research on influencing factors, particularly contextual factors.