Blog Post: Client Accountability

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With the launch of a fresh year, many of our coaching clients will want to set new goals and give extra attention to making the coming year the best it can be.  We talk a lot about goals and goal setting in the world of coaching.  Indeed, coaches love goals because creating a new reality starts by declaring what new reality we want.  That said, an often-overlooked element in goal setting is accountability.

Let’s face it, for some people accountability sounds like a dirty word.  The mere mention of the word can bring forth a grimace as we recall the many times accountability went awry.  We might flinch at the memory of experiences when accountability served as a euphemism for “you’re in trouble” or “you let someone down.”

While accountability might have a bad reputation outside of coaching, we need to ensure accountability serves its proper role in our coaching relationships.   To do that, it’s important for coaches to know our role when it comes to accountability.  Here are some key responsibilities to keep in mind.

Coaches ARE responsible for ensuring that accountability is part of the coaching process.  While using the word “accountability” is optional, having accountability is not optional.  If there is not some degree of accountability in your coaching relationships, you’ve got room to grow as a coach.

Coaches ARE responsible for bringing up the issue of accountability.  You cannot simply sit back and wait indefinitely for the client to mention accountability.  You also cannot hide behind the notion that “the client is the expert”; it’s very poor coaching to make the excuse that you didn’t address accountability because the client didn’t bring it up.

Coaches ARE responsible for noticing progress – or lack of it.  Clients have big agendas that manifest as goals, and those same clients either make progress toward those goals by taking action or they don’t.  As a partner to the client, it’s within your purview to notice and mention the client’s progress or lack of progress.  Of course, you can also invite the client to weigh in on his or her progress, but don’t abdicate this totally to the client.

Coaches ARE NOT responsible for being the client’s accountability structure.  Accountability is about increasing the odds of follow through and ONE form it can take is for the coach to check in with the client or the client report to the coach.  That said, the client is not accountable TO the coach.  The client is not letting down the coach if the client doesn’t follow through.  Don’t rely solely on the coach for accountability.

Coaches ARE NOT responsible for designing the client’s accountability structure.  Forms of accountability vary from client to client, which means the best author of accountability structures tends to be the client.  As a coach, you can weigh in and offer best practices and that sort of thing, but if you are the primary one designing the accountability structure, you’ve stepped out of your lane.

Coaches ARE NOT responsible for judging the client.  While you want to notice progress or lack of progress, it’s not your role to judge the client as a success or a failure.  You are not the referee who determines if a client measures up or not.  When coaches take on the responsibility of being a judge, they step into a place of superiority and sabotage the partnership dynamic that makes coaching so powerful.

One final thought: most coaches aren’t excited about accountability.  And anyone who is giddy with excitement about holding others accountable probably should be avoided (can you say “controlling”?!).  You don’t have to become an accountability master to leverage it well in your coaching.  Just lean in a bit, embrace accountability as one key ingredient in coaching (but not the entire recipe) and you’ll see your clients take more action and get greater results.  With a proper pinch of accountability, they’ll be more likely to make the most of the coming year.

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