Coaches and ministry leaders share the honored role of “goal-tending” for the people they work with. Yet many have expressed concerns to me about how to keep people accountable for making the changes needed to achieve their goals.
Accountability has three phases. First is brainstorming, when a person or group of people open their minds to new ways of looking at an issue, problem or situation. Without this approach, it’s more than likely things will stay the same.
Next is designing the action, when it’s your job to get people from the lofty goal stage to the action stage, despite any sense of overwhelm. Without action (and SMART ones at that), goals will never be more than dreams.
The final phase of the accountability process is follow through. Here’s where having a coach, mentor or a committed leader can be really beneficial. I know I’m not the only one who sometimes says, “I’ll do that tomorrow,” and puts something important on the back burner.
When you say that to a coach or someone else, it’s an opportunity to really examine that decision and how it will impact your goals – what you’ve said is important to you.
When follow through is delivered with a coaching approach, the person with the goal is in the driver’s seat at all times. There is no guilt, no manipulation, just questions. “So fill me in – what actions have you taken since we last met?” That’s exactly how I began every meeting when I was pastoring.
If there’s no action to report, that’s a good thing to talk about before jumping into problem solving or coming up with a bunch of new actions. I might then ask, “So what got in the way” or “What were the challenges?”
When you think about holding someone accountable, you may immediately picture this phase – meeting with a person or group to find out how they followed through on their actions. Yet without the first two phases (brainstorming and designing the action), this kind of inquiry might feel harsh. A military chaplain once described this to me as “palatable accountability” – and for many, that’s too strict to be helpful.