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Aha! This is a biggy. All the coaching books talk about how client needs to be accountable, and most give tips on how to achieve this. Often these tips include making the client feel beholden to you so that they agree to what you suggest and do what they have agreed. Also they talk about ensuring that the client is motivated to achieve and that they set appropriate goals.

These ideas are all absolutely fine, of course, but ultimately the clients ARE accountable only to themselves, as we all are in life. Part of what you will be encouraging will be autonomy for your clients; you must beware of promoting this with one hand and taking it back with the other.

One theory that is useful in this area is Neurological Levels as you can work with the levels to see where to target. For example if a person has a strong identity of “honest” then you can “call them” on tasks they haven’t completed!

Guilt also ties in with this area. While we couldn’t advocate pushing your client’s guilt button, it is something that you need to be aware of. In fact, if the client is undertaking tasks in order to avoid feeling guilty for disappointing you then you need to be looking at better motivations!

So, this is a difficult line to walk, and we suggest that you bring this factor into the open as soon as possible, and often if necessary!


We could write a book on this topic (Hey! That’s an idea!), but we will keep it simple here. The important thing is that you recognise that EVERYONE sabotages themselves in some ways at some times. It is only the degree and method that varies.

So look out for the gremlin (see Co-active Coaching) at all times.

Make a random list of people you know, knew or are famous. See if you can think of a time you know of when they have sabotaged themselves. What would you say to them if you were their coach at the time?

Giving answers/direction

This is an area of potential difficulty for all. Any students who come from a counselling background are likely to baulk at the idea of ever giving answers and direction, and those without a therapy background may find it hard not to give advice!

So let’s set some parameters.

This process is for

  • Tasking
  • Helping a client to set goals
  • Helping a client to monitor progress
  • Challenging
  • Creating accountability

It is NOT for

  • Taking responsibility (as coach)
  • Telling client what they “should” do
  • Limit options
  • Impose your values or opinions

Do you think you will find it difficult to get the balance right? What problems do you perceive you might encounter?


(from Martin, 2001)

  • No clear vision or mission
  • Obscured outcomes
  • Putting the self last
  • Age barriers
  • Financial problems
  • Family commitments
  • Hero syndrome
  • Lottery madness
  • Treading the treadmill
  • Time priorities
  • Trapped by trappings
  • Sapped by suckers
  • Rebel rebels

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