ICF core competency #11 – Managing Progress and Accountability – is an often misunderstood competency. There are two parts to this competency:
1. Managing Progress
The first part of the ICF definition of this competency relates more to Managing Progress; “Ability to hold attention on what is important for the client…..”
Because of the ongoing nature of a coaching relationship, the coach is automatically an accountability partner, and most often inquires during the next session about what the client has accomplished since the last session. The coach also holds attention on the bigger picture of what the client wants to achieve against their overall coaching plan, which is another form of managing progress.
The second part of the ICF definition of this competency relates more to Accountability; “…leave responsibility with the client to take action.”
Once the client has come up with the actions they want to take (remember, actions can also be non-action, or to experiment with stopping doing something, or reflecting…), the coach can help the client to ground their actions and to test their level of commitment to their actions (a.k.a. checking on accountability to their actions).
Many coaches will think they need to insert themselves in the client’s accountability process by asking something such as, “How can I hold you accountable to following through on this action?” This can sound parental, and not honoring of the client as being resourceful. As the definition says, leave responsibility with the client to take action…help them find their own methods of accountability.
What does the client need in order to follow through on their actions?
Here are questions you might want to ask the client to help them think through their level of commitment, and how they might want to be accountable to their actions:
“What resources might you want to research or use in order to follow through on your commitment?”
“Who might you want to ask for support?”
“Knowing yourself and your circumstances, what obstacles might get in the road of taking the action?”
“What has been successful for you in the past in fulfilling the commitments you make to yourself”
“What might be the mindset you’d need to have in order to accomplish this?”
“What timeframe is achievable for you?”
“If you commit to doing something as part of our coaching and don’t follow through, how would you like me to respond?”
This last question honors the client as an adult, as you draw on their self-knowledge about how they work with commitments. If in the next session, the client doesn’t accomplish what they said they wanted to within their timeframe, then you can refer back to how the client wanted you to respond.
But here’s the bigger issue that may be present if a client has a pattern of overcommitting and under-delivering. It’s possible the client is unconscious of their behavior, or it’s possible the coach wasn’t being present, attentive and curious enough in previous coaching sessions to understand how the client commits to actions.
It’s also possible the client may have overcommitted because
they want to please their coach.
So help the client to reflect on what they really want to do and will do, what support or resources they may want to draw on. Or what obstacles might get in the road of taking their desired action. Of course, another possibility is life happened, and priorities changed, but that is part of being human. It’s patterns of behavior over time that you want to pay attention to.
Don’t automatically insert yourself in the client’s accountability
If the client wants their coach to be part of their accountability process, let them ask you for that. You are automatically an accountability partner because you will be having another coaching session, where the first inquiry is usually something like, “So how did you go with accomplishing your actions since we last spoke?”
Listen for the client’s energy level
One key indicator that the client is committed to their actions is their energy level rises and you can hear excitement in their voice. They are having aha moments and emerging awareness. Or you hear their determination and conviction to try something that may feel uncomfortable because it’s unfamiliar, or their commitment to handle a difficult situation.
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