Accountability and Coaching

  • Accountability and Coaching

    Managing accountability is one of the ICF core competencies, against which we are all measured when we test for certification. As the profession has evolved in the 20-odd years the International Coach Federation has been established, the practice of managing accountability and the definition has varied broadly. 


    ICF’s Core Competency is stated as follows:


    Managing Progress and Accountability – Ability to hold attention on what is important for the client, and to leave responsibility with the client to take action.


    What does accountability mean?


    What do you think of when you hear the world accountable?  It is often used as a stronger word for responsibility, and in some dictionaries you will see them used synonymously.  In the early days of my training in working with human systems, I learned to think of the word accountability in its literal sense ­ capable of being counted, tallied, or some other version of tallying results.   Metrics systems are literal accountability system, and a good example is a company¹s financial reports.  These outline what is important in the business and tally the results.


    Accountable to whom?


    I have seen and heard many coaches create a relationship with their clients as an accountability partner.  One view of this, more characterized by some of the earlier coaching approaches, sets up a relationship in which the client is accountable to the coach for following through.  I have seen everything from the coach providing a mirror on accountability to the coach assigning dates, progress milestones, and calling  and emailing the coachee to check on progress.


    In my experience, people have learned a paired definition of accountability.  It is used in schools, parenting, workplaces, legal systems, and many other contexts, to mean you will be measured on your performance, then judged, and then rewarded or punished based on that judgment.  It all gets rolled into one big term that describes the entire process.


    This is where we get to be different as a coach.  While we help the client operationalize his or her dreams, and put them into an action plan, we simply stand as witness to the accounting, not as the judge.


    When you look at the definition, it is important to remember that we “leave responsibility with the client to take action”.  By doing this, we enable the client to grow and develop.  Their journey is just that ­ their journey.


    The magic of coaching is in helping another person take something that is merely a glimmer in their consciousness, or even sub-conscious, and make it manifest.  The process of taking vision to action is what enables our creativity to live out in the world.  Accountability, when thought of in the definition above, is the means by which this occurs.  Taking a notion and clarifying it through inquiry is coaching.  “How will you know you have it?”  “What will it look like?”  “What will it feel like”?  “How will others know you have it?”  “When do you want to have it?”  “What will you do to get there?”


    All of these provide the clarity, which then allow our clients to manage their progress towards their dreams.


    To your success,

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