Core Skills – Managing Progress and Accountability

Core Skills – Managing Progress and Accountability

Luckily coaching will make this job very much easier for you because “Managing Progress and Accountability” is all about empowering students to make the right choices for their lives, by themselves!


According to the ICF description what you need to do is hold attention on what is important for the student, and to leave responsibility with them to take action.

That might sound like leaving all the work up to the student, however there’s a lot you can do, as coach, to increase the chances that the student takes actions that they will be proud of.

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Clearly request the student to take actions that will move them toward their stated goals. “What are you going to do to get closer to your goal?”

That implies that you know what the student’s goals are. Sometimes students hide behind the phrase “I don’t know” when you ask them about their goals. This can be because they are afraid of stating a goal, since it will give you the means to make clear requests of them for action. In such cases it’s vital that you unearth the student’s goals before you put more effort into managing progress and/or accountability.

There are plenty of activities and exercises for doing this. It should be pointed out that the student’s choice of not having goals is in fact a choice. They have made the choice of allowing other people to set goals for them. They have opened themselves to the risk of being forced into a life they don’t want to live, or a life that leaves them ultimately disappointed. It’s a choice, and as such should be respected. And as a coach your job is to make it possible for the student to become enlightened to the character of the goal that they have passively set. Ask them to think about people who made a similar choice of having no goals, and to consider asking these people how satisfied they are with their lives. Often just imagining this process will be enough to encourage students to set some sort of goals… and that’s enough.

Other things that you can do as coach are:

  • Demonstrate follow through by asking the student about those actions that they committed to during the previous session(s). Just be curious and ask “What did you do? What did you learn? What did you achieve? What did you experience…?”
  • Acknowledge the student for what they have done, not done, learned or become aware of since the previous coaching session(s). Sincerely say “That’s great”, where appropriate, honestly say “You made an effort there – and the results were smaller than you expected or hoped”…
  • Effectively prepare, organize and review with student the information that comes up in the sessions. This can be a case of writing things down in a more convenient way, so that the student has something to put in their pocket or diary, for example. Ideally you should get the student to do this themselves, and they may need to experience the benefits before they take the initiative to organise themselves in this way. Role model!
  • Keep the student on track between sessions by holding attention on the coaching plan and outcomes, agreed-upon courses of action, and topics for future session(s). That’s a question of checking with the written plan from time to time, and making checklists of topics and research material, and checking that progress is being made.
  • Focus on the coaching plan but is also open to adjusting behaviors and actions based on the coaching process and shifts in direction during sessions. Naturally the course of the coaching session is less than a straight line. It’s more like riding a skateboard!
  • Be able to move back and forth between the big picture of where the student is heading, setting a context for what is being discussed and where the student wishes to go. This simply means that you move between the macro and micro perspectives and make sure they are included in a balanced way across the coaching sessions.
  • Promote the student’s self-discipline and hold them accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames. Just let them know that you care that they do / don’t do what they said they would do / not do. Saying “I notice that you smell of cigarettes, and remind you that your goal is to quit”, is more coach-like than “You said you would stop smoking!”
  • Develop the student’s ability to make decisions, address key concerns, and develop themself (to get feedback, to determine priorities and set the pace of learning, to reflect on and learn from experiences). Asking “How well does the current pace of learning match your needs?” will encourage the student to realise that they do have some influence on the pace.

Where necessary, positively confront the student with the fact that they did not take agreed-upon actions. By repeatedly reminding the student that they always have a choice in what they do, you will guide them away from giving endless excuses, and empower them to make better choices in the future. I’d like to begin by asking a question, “Whose responsibility is it that a student passes the course that you are teaching?”

Naturally, as teacher you want as many students as possible to pass, and get the highest grades possible. You know from personal experience that their grades can make a difference to their lives. Certainly the student’s parents will probably expect you to do everything that you can to get their son/daughter through the course, and get the best grade possible. Some parents may be more actively involved.

Now that puts you in a tough situation. Not only you but the dozens of parents connected to your class want you to do your best, and those high expectations put a lot of pressure on you to prepare the best lessons, be clear about the goals and expectations, motivate the students to learn, plus follow up and grade their work fairly and accurately. Phew! That’s a job!

This is part of a series of 12 blogs about the ICF Core Coaching Skills