head shot of Zlatian Iliev


Performance Management Part 1: Goal Setting, Mentoring and Coaching

July 21, 2023

Performance management is one of the core responsibilities of a leader. I decided to create a three-part series and cover the following topics: goal setting, mentoring, coaching, performance review, performance improvement plans (PIPs), and the dreaded experience of many leaders - letting someone go. In this article, I will focus on goal setting, mentoring, and coaching.

Goal setting

As a leader, you need to push people outside of their comfort zone. Some folks like to grow faster than others but one thing is clear. Everyone needs to improve. If you don’t you will simply be left behind. Cough, cough, ChatGPT, cough, cough. If you are still not convinced, there was a study done that tracked the success of a group. 3% of them used goals, the rest didn’t. Over time that 3% managed to achieve more financial success than the other 97% combined. Now that I hopefully have your attention here are some tips for goal setting:

  1. Start by aligning on the current level of the individual you are working with. After that, discuss and figure out the growth path for them. This deserves a separate article so I won’t go into detail here. The general idea is that the goals need to be strategic and aligned with the vision and direction of the company and the individual.

  2. Next up, make sure that the goals are as specific as possible. They need to be measurable but also finely broken down into steps so that the person you are working with has a clear path ahead of them in order to achieve the goals.

  3. Make sure all goals have deadlines. Having one dramatically increases the progress and success rate of achieving the goals.

  4. Follow the rule of no more than 3 goals at a time. 1 or 2 is best but if you need more, cap things to a maximum of 3 goals. Having more than that will likely lead to making little to no progress on any or some might just get neglected. Focus is key!

Lastly, I will leave you with a simple tool to help you find the right goals to focus on called - the goals grid.

The Goals Grid


One of the main reasons why I transitioned into a management role is I love to see people grow and improve. A way to help them do so is by mentoring them yourself or helping them find a mentor. Mentoring unlike coaching involves you spending time to share your knowledge, skills and/or experience, to help others to develop and grow. Here are some guidelines to start with:

  1. Make sure you have the necessary skill set and the time. You won’t always be the best person to mentor someone and that’s okay, just help them find that person. If you are, great! Go to step 2.

  2. Understand how the person you are helping learns best. Everyone is different so you want to make sure you tailor your teaching style to your audience.

  3. Be sure to progressively challenge the person you are working with. Ideally, keeping them in a flow state.

  4. Create a safe space where that person can fail and is encouraged to speak up when they don’t know something. Also do let them fail, very often great learnings come from that. Just make sure it is in a controlled manner and you don’t put deliverables at risk.

  5. Make things practical. Theory is great and often necessary to speed up someone's progression but ultimately what matters is the impact that someone can create. Tie things to a deliverable.


A lot of people mix up mentoring and coaching. With both, you are trying to help someone learn a new skill or improve an existing one. The main difference however is that with coaching you won’t be the person teaching the skill directly. Like I said in my article on managing individuals you need to be able to coach someone on topics that you have very little or no knowledge in. Even when you do know the answers to something, I would highly recommend pausing and trying to coach someone instead. Of course there are scenarios where that is not appropriate but unless you have a deadline or deliverable I would recommend going that route. But why, some may ask? I will answer with the following proverb “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”. You want to teach others how to solve their problems autonomously. Additionally, when your team is small, you can often mentor people yourself. The more your team grows, the less time you will have to do that. At some point you will have no other option but coaching. So how do you become an effective coach?

  1. Develop a growth mindset and the person you are coaching to do the same. This is absolutely foundational. I would highly recommend reading the book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck and also watching this quick video.

  2. The second thing is being present. Make sure you have no distractions and you are paying full attention. There is an interesting book on the topic called "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle. It’s not for everyone, you either love it or hate it but I would still recommend it, it might just be worth it.

  3. Next up, practice active listening. This is the fun part. If it’s a topic you are not very familiar with, you will also be learning! How cool is that! A simple tip to make sure that you are on the same page is to periodically pause and repeat what you understood with your own words. This will keep the conversation fully aligned but also show to the other person that you are indeed deeply listening.

  4. Ask questions. This part is simple but not easy. Using questions you should guide the person you are working with to solve pretty much any problem they might have. There is a coaching framework called the GROW model. First, you want to lead the person through articulating a goal. Second, establishing the reality or the current state they are in. Three, explore different options or ways to achieve the goal. And lastly, work on a specific and detailed plan to move things forward.

I will leave you with a great book that inspired me to write this article. It’s called: “How to be Good at Performance Appraisals” by Dick Grote. I would highly recommend it for folks looking to dive deeper into the topic as there is so much I can cover in a sub-5-minute read.

As always I hope at least someone can find value in reading this article.

Keep a growth mindset and take care!

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