By Karen Carmody, PCC.

To be successful at anything, you need to have a plan. Whether you’re running a marathon, renovating your home, or developing your leadership skills. A critical part of an Arden Coaching Executive Coaching Engagement is creating a Developmental Action Plan based on the clients’ goals.  The Developmental Action Plan provides a road map to guide clients to achieve their goals. Once the goals have been identified, the next step is creating a Developmental Action Plan.

There are two primary reasons people generally fail at their goals because they are: 

  1. Vague and lack accountability for taking specific action steps within a specific time frame
  2. Too aggressive leading people to feel defeated and eventually abandon their goals

The technique I utilize to guard against these situations is called AIM SMART. Here’s an example to illustrate the AIM SMART technique. In this scenario, a client is a newly promoted Senior Vice President. Her goals include enhancing executive presence, building a high-performing team, and focusing on relationship building. 

For her goal focused on relationship building, the client identified conducting introductory one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders as one action step. She will use these meetings to learn about the stakeholders’ roles, business areas, and how they will work together. She will prioritize her most important stakeholders and schedule those first. 

This is a good first step. Now the client must get more specific about the number of one-on-one meetings over what time period. This is where the AIM SMART technique comes into play. 

Starting with the AIM section, AIM stands for: 


The client states her ideal would be 12 and her minimum would be 2 one-on-one meetings/month. She takes the average (14÷2) and will conduct 7 one-on-one introductory stakeholder meetings/month until her list is completed. 

Moving to the SMART portion, we review the following 5 questions for the SMART criteria. For this scenario the responses would be: 

Specific – Is it clear what the action step is?
Yes, conduct 7 one-on-one introductory stakeholder meetings/month. 

Measurable- Can progress be measured for the action step?
Yes, the client can count how many of the 7 introductory stakeholder meetings were conducted during the month.

Actionable-Does the action step required something be put into action?
Yes, the client has to conduct 7 stakeholder meeting/month. 

Realistic-Is the action step relevant to the client’s goal?
Yes, these meetings are important to learning about her key stakeholders’ roles, business areas, and how they will work together. This will ultimately improve her relationships with these key stakeholders. 

Time-Based – Does the action step have a deadline?
Yes, 7 meetings will be conducted by the end of each month until she completes her stakeholder list. 

If all the answers were not yes, then the action step would need to be refined to meet all criteria. This process continues for the multiple action steps per goal until the Developmental Action Plan is complete.

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says too many people concentrate on the moonshot goal instead of the action steps needed to get there. A wealth of psychological research shows that people who achieve most in life take the deliberate steps to ensure they attain their goals.

As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a dream. By creating a Developmental Action Plan with AIM SMART action steps for each goal, you can significantly increase your success in achieving your goals.

Where would it serve you to AIM SMART?  Karen can assist you in figuring it out and setting your plan!