Key Principles of Coaching - Accountability


"When you get right down to the root meaning of the word 'succeed', you find that it simply
means to follow through."
F. W. Nichol


“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere


Our newsletter this month tackles the topic of Accountability. The simple act of committing to an action will often provide the motivation required to complete that action. To many people, one of the most powerful consequences of not following through on a promise is simply that of letting someone else down, particularly if that person is someone they respect. This could be their coach, but it is often just as powerful to be accountable to a colleague, friend or family member.


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Accountability is a great motivator. The power of sharing a planned action to ensure that an action is completed should not be underestimated. Setting a deadline, then sharing that deadline with another person is one of the best ways to ensure people undertake the actions they commit to.


"The key to growth is to learn to make promises and to keep them." Stephen R. Covey


A simple example: I recently worked with a client who was struggling to keep on top of her paperwork. It was literally piling up on her desk. This person (let’s call them Jenny) now knew that not dealing with this paperwork meant her work practices were becoming inefficient. Jenny was wasting a significant amount of time each day looking for and locating paperwork she had not filed. There was a flow on effect too. It was taking Jenny longer to complete other actions. Tasks outlined in the paperwork were not being completed, making it more difficult to prioritise.  Whilst the filing of the paperwork, and completing the actions was not an immediate priority in itself, the impact on other tasks of not doing so was significant.

Jenny was aware this was an issue for her and it came up in one of our coaching sessions. She felt she had tried numerous ways to manage the paperwork, including setting time aside in her calendar, offering herself rewards for completing it and even telling herself she would not go home at night until it was all sorted. Needless to say, it wasn't working.

Coaching Jenny through this, we agreed to explore options to ensure this task did get completed as soon as possible. The benefits were evident almost immediately. As part of our exploration Jenny was asked to consider previous occasions where she had struggled to complete a task, but was finally successful. What was the difference that made the difference? Jenny realised that often it came down to her hand being forced. That is, when she felt she had no choice but to complete the task. The consequences of letting it get to that point though were significant. Jenny also identified that she had been far more successful in completing tasks when she discussed them with friends or colleagues. Jenny realised that by letting others know she was struggling to complete something, she immediately felt a sense of urgency to complete the task. It would then often be completed that day, or as soon as possible thereafter.

With this insight into her own thinking and behaviour, Jenny left the coaching session with a plan to discuss her paperwork with a colleague, and provide an undertaking to them to have dealt with it by the end of the week. To step up her accountability, she also wanted to send me a text message once the filing was completed. I received the SMS 2 days later.


"Some favorite expressions of small children: “It’s not my fault. . . They made me do it. . . I forgot.” Some favorite expressions of adults: “It’s not my job. . . No one told me. . . It couldn’t be helped.” True freedom begins and ends with personal accountability." Dan Zadra


Self-Coaching Exercise
The following activity will assist you in using the power of accountability to achieve your own goals.

Set yourself a task to achieve by the end of the week. Make it something that you have struggled to achieve in the past. The more of a ‘stretch’ this task is for you, the more rewarding it will be when you complete it. Now, share this task (and the timeframe for completion) with someone you trust. It could be a family member, friend or colleague. Ask them to check in with you over the next few days to see how you are progressing with this task. Even better, undertake to check in with them over the next few days to let them know how you are progressing. Then reflect: How motivated are you now to complete the task? What are the consequences if you were to not complete the task? Are you now more likely to complete the task than if ‘going it alone’?


“Accountability breeds response-ability.” Stephen R. Covey


For more information about the Key Principles of Coaching, and Accountability in particular, please contact Simon Altschwager on 1300 788 678 or, or refer to our website at

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