A cornerstone of coaching sessions is accountability. This happens at the level of the individual session, but also in the broader capacity of the larger coaching relationship. In order to effectively hold your client accountable, you will need to first have a clear understanding of their larger goals for your coaching engagement, but also the smaller action items that will come out of each coaching session (and that should be aligned with the larger goals).

At the level of an individual session, it is not uncommon for action items to naturally occur to a client throughout a session. Noting these action items as they come up, and then summarizing them at the end of the session, are beginning stages to establishing accountability with your client. Once a client has chosen what they want their action items to be, ask them how they would like to hold themselves accountable to those tasks.

All clients will have different preferences for accountability. Some will decide to put the tasks they want to complete in a written planner. Others will need external accountability, sometimes in the form of a check-in from you, in order to stay on track with their tasks. Whatever your client’s preferences are, at the end of a session you should move them toward articulating an accountability plan. At the following session, you will also want to check in on the tasks from the previous meeting.

Some of your clients may excel at choosing action items, but might struggle with holding themselves accountable or following through with the tasks that will move them toward their goals. If you have a client who is consistently not completing their action items, here are some powerful questions to explore what may be standing in their way:

  • How does this goal rank in importance compared to other areas of your life right now?
  • What obstacles are keeping you from completing this task?
  • What emotion do you associate with following through on this task?
  • What questions do you have about completing this task?
  • What would help you to make this task easier?

Remember to approach the question of why your client is not able to move forward with an attitude of curiosity rather than judgment.

At the level of the larger coaching engagement, you will also want to hold your client accountable to the bigger goals that they established for your work together. One method for this is to offer a mid-engagement survey or evaluation that offers your client a chance to check-in and reflect on how things are going as they move closer to achieving their goals. This mid-engagement check-in can also serve as a time where the coaching goals between you and your client can be re-designed if a lot of progress has been made, or if your client’s goals have shifted or evolved.