I often reflect on accountability and how it shows up (or doesn't) in my coaching engagements. Not without some guilt I might add. Guilt because I know that when my clients decide on an action to take forward from a session, I don’t always follow-up. In fact, I generally don’t follow-up. If a client wants to talk about their "homework" then I leave it to them to bring up any actions that they've taken (or not) in our check-in and we use that conversation to deepen the learning. But if they don’t bring it up, I don’t either. And here comes the guilt... if coaching is about action and getting traction on doing things, shouldn't I be asking about their to-do list?
As I reflect on this question various thoughts come up: clients are adults and can take responsibility for their own actions; they know if they do or don’t do their homework; I’m certainly not a babysitter getting paid to check that they do their work. And then there's the other side of the coin: maybe I'm letting them off the hook; maybe I'm not doing my job; accountability is an important competency for coaches.
And then I had an intro session with a potential client who asked me the dreaded question…
As a coach, do I hold my clients accountable?
I ummed a bit while I thought about the question.... and this potential client (who was referred to me by an existing client) proceeded to tell me that she had heard that I do. That piece of feedback took me by surprise because it was the one thing I wasn't sure I was doing such a good job with.
While I hold a regular debate with myself about whether I do a good enough job holding clients accountable, I was given a specific piece of feedback that said that I do. In addition, the potential client (who later became an actual client) added some more info to the feedback and apparently I “don't let clients off the hook and don’t leave them any wriggle room.” Verbatim.
This got me thinking… and that's when I had my own AHA moment.
Accountability in my work as a coach means holding clients accountable to their best selves, their best thinking and their big vision... and not letting go when it becomes difficult for them to hold themselves to that.
I’m not a babysitter holding people accountable to their to-do list.
I’m a vision-holder, holding people accountable to their big dreams for themselves.
Even if they don’t know what they are yet, even if they still need to think about it, even if they need to show up differently, even if they are not aware that their big vision is out there and even if they're too afraid to go there.
This kind of accountability allows them to take responsibility for their own to-do list. As I hold the big picture for them of what they want to achieve and who they want to be, they hold themselves accountable for the actions that will get them there.
I like that… No… I love that!
That is exactly why I love my work. Because of the accountability.
What is your big dream for yourself?
What do you want to achieve? Who do you need to be to achieve it?
And let's not forget… who is holding you accountable?