By Jonna Dye
“A coach is someone that sees beyond your limits and guides you to greatness” – Michael Jordan
This is a core question for any coaching relationship: Who “owns” accountability in the coach/coachee relationship? Perhaps you have watched the Michael Jordan documentary from 2020, “The Last Dance” and the answer is very clear to you. “The Last Dance” chronicles the rise of superstar Michael Jordan and the 1990’s Chicago Bulls. There are two clear messages: everyone needs a coach, even a world-class superstar like Michael Jordan, and the coachee owns accountability in the coaching relationship.
When we observe the coaching experience, we can see and understand that the coach sets the stage and provides guidance and perspective, and it is up to the coachee to be accountable to their plan to achieve their goals.
Why is the coachee accountable? When the coachee sets their own accountability structures, they are committing to follow through and successfully complete their plan. The coach on the other hand plays a supporting role through facilitation to provide a structure to focus, recognize, and challenge the coachee. When watching Michael Jordan in “The Last Dance”, this relationship of leading and supporting roles is well illustrated.
How does the coachee best explore their role and goal achievement? Below are questions to support the coachee to focus, recognize, and challenge in the creation of a path for engagement and accountability.
- What goals do you want to achieve? How will you know when you’ve achieved them?
- What might get or be getting in the way? How have you tried to overcome these obstacles before?
- What strengths do you leverage? What other resources can you leverage?
- What did you successfully accomplish in the last few weeks? Why were you successful?
- What stimulates you to do your best work?
- What can you start doing or do differently right now?
- What are you willing to shift or change?
- What conversations do you need to have?
- What resources do you need?
- To get what you want, what are your commitments?
- As your coach, what do you need from me?
- How do you want to be held accountable for your goals?
- How do you want me to approach you if you don’t follow through with the commitments you make? What would be a good conversation starter for us?
During each coaching session, the coach can follow up on the accountability agreements. Together, a celebration and acknowledgment of what worked, and examining what did not work is an important part of the process. Check-ins ensure the goals originally set, are still in alignment as coaching progresses. A set of alignment questions can power the conversation to determine if the goals are still relevant; if they are in alignment with the organization/sponsor’s goals; and if there is commitment to the stated goals. If the coachee hasn’t done what they say they will, the coach’s role is to be curious and ask: What do you need to do to move forward? If you could start over, what would be different? What would the new plan look like?
Coaches should also ask themselves throughout the process: Am I meeting the coachee’s/sponsor’s needs? Am I holding up my end of the bargain? What’s working and what needs to shift? The coach needs to acknowledge if they made a mistake, and then own it, adjust, and move forward!
Although the role of a manager and the role of a coach differ, the above coaching information can still be leveraged simply by:
- Communicating expectations in advance of the assignment
- Connecting at regular intervals to discuss progress and provide feedback
- Giving praise, support, or feedback once the work is complete
Finally, when you consider that the successful coaching model is founded in accountability, the outcomes create a high level of satisfaction from the coachee as it is their commitment, their achievement, and their results supported by their coach that helps them realize that self-investment has an extremely high rate of return. The input drives the outcome and accountability ensures focus and achieving what might have once only been a dream.
“I set another goal, a reasonable, manageable goal that I could realistically achieve if I worked hard enough. I approached everything step by step.” – Michael Jordan
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