Coaching: An Accountability Tool

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Posted by: Bernard Durocher, VP Canadian and Offshore Operations

We speak frequently about accountability within organizations. We acknowledge its positive impact on meeting individual and organizational goals. The ultimate sustainable competitive advantage is having a team well-equipped with the tools to complete their tasks, and this is driven via building knowledge and developing skills. What is the best approach to encourage a culture of accountability? Coaching. And the coach’s main tool? Open-ended questions.

Accountability begins with a personal choice – and where there is a sense of choice, there is a sense of freedom. Before successfully integrating into an organization, at a human level individuals must see a personal benefit in as well as derive pleasure from surpassing expectations. The notion of accountability should be approached from the perspective of personal choice rather than one of obligation to justify results. Managers charged with growing a sense of individual accountability within their team members must play the role of coach to enable their employees to see the opportunities behind each challenge. To reach their goals, employees and managers must take the time to slow down to reflect. In order to sustain an atmosphere conducive to critical introspection, we must first ask questions to encourage the emergence of new solutions which permit attaining goals.

Individual and collective accountability are governed by beliefs, values and emotions. These factors have a significant impact as much on the individual as on the organization and as such they must be taken into account when trying to understand what is preventing individuals from meeting their objectives or determine the drivers behind, say,  specific attitudes or expressions of resistance.

Coaching aimed at performance improvement is oriented toward the development of specific behavioral skills. This method of performance improvement strives to highlight and strengthen an individual’s capacity though observation, recognition and feedback. To be efficient, the manager-coach must provide their employees with an environment based on empathy and retrospection, allowing employees to access their internal resources. One of the primary tools used in management coaching is asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions sharpen awareness and accountability.

Open-ended questions awaken people’s ability to be self-determining. They require detailed and descriptive responses. These are questions that begin with WHO, WHAT or HOW, for example. It’s preferable to avoid questions that start with WHY since these tend to lead to justifications. As for close-ended questions, these should be avoided as they elicit only short, precise responses which do not encourage individuals to explore their situations in detail.

Coaching, when used at all levels of a company and in all management situations, generates a more positive attitude amongst employees, clients, colleagues – and even competitors. The combination of these factors converges to a marked increase in performance and a corresponding growth in individual and collective accountability for ongoing improvement.

Happy coaching!