Responsibility in Coaching


Work on yourself first, take responsibility for your own progress. ~ I Ching

Thoughts About Responsibility in Coaching

I have been pondering ‘responsibility’ lately and the different aspects of responsibility within the holistic coaching process. According to the Oxford Dictionary, responsibility can be defined as:

The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone, the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something, [and/or] the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

When I first consider ‘responsibility’ in holistic coaching, I think of the fairly obvious legal responsibilities of a coach. I think of the written coaching agreement coaches need to have in place with clients to delineate the coach’s responsibilities from the client’s responsibilities. This coaching agreement enables coach and client expectations to be clear before entering into the new professional coach-client relationship, and ensures the client is aware of the coach’s scope of practice. Second, I consider how coaches have a moral and ethical responsibility to practice according to their professional coaching code of ethics and standards of practice, in addition to laws and standards of practice set out by their other professional credentials (when applicable).

            As I dig a bit deeper, ‘responsibility’ is also evident in more subtle ways throughout the holistic coaching process. I think of a coach serving as a supportive presence focused only on the client. The coach, who is actively listening, is responsible for establishing and maintaining a safe and comforting environment with clear boundaries and kind direct communication. This in turn enables the client to develop trust in the coach, and trust in the process. Progress and accountability reflect an even more subtle display of responsibility in the coaching process. Even though the coach is responsible for asking about ‘homework’ in each coaching session, it is the client who is responsible and accountable to him/herself for goal and growth work identification, participation, and subsequent actions or inactions.

Lastly, I think a holistic coach that regularly “walks the talk” serves as a responsible role model for clients. The ‘responsibility’ a coach has to his/her own wellbeing is demonstrated by engaging in daily self-care activities. This can be such an effective way to enable the coach to be fully present, centered, and grounded before each session with a client, and exemplify a healthy balanced lifestyle with clients.

What other aspects of ‘responsibility’ do you see in your coaching process?


Diane Shaver, RN, MSN, NC-BC is a Registered Nurse and graduate of the Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy. Diane has over 35 years experience in caring for adults and children in acute care hospitals and community health settings with a focus on patient education, health promotion, and holistic nursing.

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