How to Coach for Accountability

Management and coaching are generally treated as entirely separate disciplines with vastly different facets. I find the most significant difference is in how each discipline works with others; where managers tell, coaches guide. I think a lot of problems could be solved if people did a little less telling and a little more guiding, and that is where management can lean on coaching techniques.

As an example, when a parent tells me their child doesn’t listen to them, especially with regards to doing chores and following rules, I often find that while the parent speaks clearly to their child, they spend little to no time asking questions and giving guidance. Questions may include:

  • Why does the child want to do one thing when the parent wants them to do another?
  • Who is not understanding the requirements?
  • Why does it have to happen now?
  • What is it the child wants to do?
  • What does the child get from doing what they want to do?
  • Why is this important?
  • Is the child aware of the consequences of certain actions?
  • Why does the parent want the child to do one thing rather than another?

When people talk through their thinking with each other, it also gives them a better understanding of their situation, their reasoning and their motivations. This understanding also helps people to take ownership – a lack of accountability can often be attributed to a lack of understanding.

Coaching is, by nature, a high-accountability environment – problems are identified, solutions are discussed, goals are set, and feedback is given during the next session. This creates an ‘accountability loop’, as each session feeds into the next.

The problem (telling instead of guiding) can be solved through the use of the G.R.O.W. Model:

  • G for Goal:
    Get the goal right, set clear expectations, explain dependencies and where the work fits into the bigger picture. Are there any milestones or deliverables to be completed along the way?
  • R for Realities:
    When working towards accountability you need to identify the realities; “Because I said so” is a poor substitute for an actual reason. Why does a given task need to be completed? What gets in the way of work? What systems or procedures need to be accounted for? Where are the dependencies?
  • O for Opportunities:
    Realities is about obstacles, but now we look for opportunities. Dependences can often be negotiated. Systems and procedures can be put to use or planned around. What can we do differently? What problems do we expect and how can we handle them ahead of time?
  • W for Way Forward:
    We have laid out our goals, recognise the realities and obstacles, and have identified our opportunities – now comes the part where we plan our way forward, which is followed by getting the work done.

G.R.O.W. is about understanding what needs to get done, what gets in the way, how obstacles can be overcome and how we can move forward. The G.R.O.W. Model is great for more than just coaching, it is also useful for briefing and problem solving; but the best part is that it also encourages reflection and feedback – providing room for discussion, which breeds understanding and cooperation.

I find it works even better when managers are available to help with reflection. This is because there is one reality we often ignore: team members are called ‘team members’ because they are not managers.

Where team members are the ‘boots on the ground’, managers bring with them a high-level, top-down understanding of the work, because there are always going to be obstacles and opportunities that individual team members are not aware of.

As a manager you have the power to step in and help at every step of the way, and you can do this without having to micromanage your team members – by setting goals, explaining obstacles, presenting opportunities and planning a way forward