Accountability is essential to effective coaching. Not everyone wants to hear this word; its use can create fear in some and potentially undo the safe space needed for coaching. How do you bring accountability into the coaching relationship in a constructive and positive way?
When I begin a coaching relationship, I bring accountability up early, as we set up our coaching. I do not impose it, but rather, ask a question: How do we hold you accountable in this coaching relationship? This allows the person being coached to suggest a way they can ensure commitment and results. In my experience, seldom does anyone challenge or resist introducing accountability into the coaching relationship. I think this is due to their involvement in determining how we deal with accountability. If someone does challenge accountability, I ask how they feel about entering the coaching relationship. If it is a voluntary relationship, I let their answer inform me regarding whether they are ready for coaching. If it is not a voluntary relationship, I work with them to ensure there is accountability, doing my best to keep an open and safe space for our coaching.
Accountability does not have to be rigid. At the end of each coaching meeting I ask for an “intent” from the person being coached that specifies what they will do by our next meeting. I check in at the start of our next meeting on their intent and what they have done. Sometimes, much can be learned when a commitment is not carried through on. I explore with the person being coached why it was not done and that exploration often leads to key insights. The thread of accountability has to be maintained however, to ensure results. Accountability matters, as you well know as a manager.
Bring accountability into the coaching relationship at an early point. Allow the person you are coaching to participate in establishing it and keep accountability alive throughout the coaching relationship.