Who is Holding Who Accountable?

Coaching AccountabilityThe purpose of any coaching session is to support a client to find their way to closing a gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

The natural output of the coaching process is discovery, which often directly leads to clarity about actions the client can take. Sometimes in the excitement of discovery, a client may come up with many actions. This is where the coach can assist the client to determine what’s really most important to them, what they are committed to doing next, and what is a lower priority.

The ICF core competency #11, “Managing Progress and Accountability” incorporates the discussion of accountability between coach and client. The definition of this competency is, “ability to hold attention on what is important for the client, and to leave responsibility with the client to take action.” Therefore part of the coach’s role is to help the client to discover what is important for them to hold attention on.

Actions can arise any time in a coaching session

Anytime during the coaching session (not just at the very end), whenever actions are named by the client provides an opportunity to have further conversation to support the client to clarify their thinking around actions. This includes discovering any accountability methods that would support them to follow through. Examples of questions that support the client to create appropriate commitments and accountability include the coach asking:

  • What is your level of commitment to following through on [this] action?
  • Who, if anyone, might you want to draw on to support you in remaining accountable to your action/s?
  • What, if anything else, might you want do draw on?
  • Given real life happens, what could get in the road of you following through with your action/s?
  • How might you plan for that?
  • How realistic is your timeline to completing your action/s?

The stronger the client feels connected to their actions, the easier it is to ask accountability type questions to help them discover what else they need in order to follow through.

Accountability is always for the client, not the coach

When a coach asks, “How would you like me to hold you accountable?” this infers a parental and/or authoritarian relationship where the client s answerable to the coach. This is not the case. The coach is already a built in accountability partner by the nature of a coaching relationship where it is usual practice for the client to use the beginning of a coaching session to discuss what they were able to accomplish against what they committed.

For actions not completed, there is an assumption the client is capable, and therefore more listening and discovery may need to occur about any or all of the following:

Did the client overcommit to actions from the last session?

Did anything unexpected arise that became a higher priority for them?

Was one action in fact many actions and steps that require more time than originally anticipated?

Has the client realized they committed to something that wasn’t really as important as something else?

How have priorities changed?

These are just some of the range of questions that might be asked as part of managing progress and accountability in the partnership between client and coach. The key is that the client is the one who is accountable to themselves, and to the coaching process, not to the coach.

Are you preparing to apply for your MCC, PCC or ACC credential and need 10 hours of mentor coaching that meet ICF requirements?
Or do you need core competency CCE’s to renew your credential?

The next 3 month Mentor Coaching Group begins January 7 from 4pm – 5.30pm Eastern. Space is Limited.


We offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group