The most misunderstood coaching competency

people-scaffoldingOf all the ICF Core Coaching Competencies, I think that the last competency is one of the most misunderstood. I’m talking about competency #11: Managing Progress and Accountability.

There are two very different aspects to this competency: what happens in a coaching session between coach and client, and what happens between coaching sessions with the client.

Managing Progress and Accountability is directly related to Designing Actions

Once the client has decided on an action, the next step is to ascertain their level of commitment, and inquire if they have the support they need in order to accomplish the action they want to take. The coach does their best in a session to ensure the client has addressed the following:

  • What is your level of commitment to taking this action (you could use a scale of 1-10 to begin that conversation)
  • What would increase your level of commitment to taking this action?
  • What is the right timeframe for you to commit to this action?
  • What resources do you need? (resources could be people or research/information)
  • What might get in the way of you taking this action?

Sometimes it’s obvious that the client is committed and has the support they need. At other times it isn’t. This is where your listening and being present informs you.

By the way, that last question …”What might get in the way of you taking this action?” can open up a whole new coaching conversation, either for that session or if still applicable for the client in the next session.

In between sessions, the client goes about their life, and engages with their actions. Sometimes they are more successful than others at accomplishing what they thought they would. So part of the role of a coach is to follow up in the next session and ask the client what happened since the last session.

We are not our client’s Parent

Be careful not to play parent when following up, which would have a tone of parental/authority and may sound like, “Why didn’t you do that?” “What had you agree to that then?” These types of questions, asked with an authoritarian tone, are not at all useful questions for the client. Remember, you are a co-creative partner with your client, not a parental authority.

Instead, ask them what got in the road, how they want to move forward from here, what do they want to re-commit to, and what isn’t relevant anymore to have as an action. Make any observations you have about patterns of behavior you observe around their way of committing, and their level of success with actions.

Be Curious about the Client’s Mindset

When a client doesn’t accomplish what they said they would, you’ll most likely be addressing the “Who” of the client, because it will be their beliefs, their values, their mindset, their habits – their inner landscape – that is at the heart of the lack of action. And sometimes, we just don’t get to do all the things in a time-frame that we expected, so it’s management of the time-frame that is the issue, not the level of commitment by the client.

There you go! Managing Progress and Accountability is extremely valuable to the client when you engage in it with the intent to support the client to clarify their commitment level, and what resources they need.