The Responsibility of a Coachee

April 24, 2013

Responsibility is a character quality every employer, parent, and friend wants a potential leader to have. In the context of coaching a leader, responsibility is one of the main elements necessary for a successful coaching relationship.

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Two scholars describe the responsibility of the coachee this way:

The coaching experience is, first and foremost, for and about the individuals being coached. They are responsible for driving the process and directing their own learning. They decide which goals to work on and how to go about this work. The coach’s role is to influence the agenda, not set it. 1

Setting the agenda means the coachee comes to the coaching sessions ready with issues to be coached on and questions to talk through.

Two other scholars in the medical industry describe the necessity of the coachee taking responsibility in a slightly different but similar context by writing that a “coach does not set goals for patients or coerce. The patient sets his or her own goals, and the NP’s [Nurse Practioner’s] role is to support, encourage, cheer the patient, and celebrate success.” 2 Thus, coaching is initiated and driven by the coachee.

Since the coachee is the one who primarily benefits from the relationship, then she should be the one who drives the agenda and content of the meetings. It is important to note that “the direction for change comes from the client, the acknowledged expert about his or her own life situation.” 3 The coachee is the expert because she knows what is going on and what needs to change.

Often a coachee might know that a change needs to take place but not know how to make that change. The role of the coach is to help the coachee develop the character qualities and skills that will allow the coachee to make that change.  The person being coached is ultimately accountable for outcomes and results. She takes action in between coaching sessions. There might be times when the coachee is dependent on the coach to do something, but most of the time it is the coachee who is doing the work.

Another reason the coachee is the one primarily responsible for the success of the coaching relationship is that the coachee “must be motivated by the hope of future reward for present faithful service.” 4 Coaching is a process, not an event. That process means the coachee sees a future reward such as people saved, people in need receiving services, or Christian information taught. All of these require time, and during that time the coachee will experience failure where the coach is there to encourage and teach.

A coach helps to assist the young leader to make the change she desires. This is especially true because more times than not, the coach is going to be someone from outside of the organization. 5 Since that person is from outside of the organization, she needs content to coach the coachee on.

If the coachee has no goals, issues, or problems to be coached on, then there is nothing for the coach to help with. Hence, the responsibility lies with the coachee to come to the coaching sessions prepared with those items ready to discuss and talk about. If the coach is someone from the same organization the coachee works at, then the coach has more than likely seen the coachee’s strengths and weaknesses and knows what areas she needs coaching in. Yet even with a coach who knows how the future leader needs to grow, the responsibility and effort towards change must come from the coachee.

The coach does not lead the change but walks alongside encouraging, instructing, and helping the coachee walk through the change she wants to make.

Question: Why do you believe that a coachee needs to take responsibility for the success of the coaching relationship?


  1. Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 14.
  2. Eileen Hayes, Ph.D. and Karen A. Kalmakis, Ph.D., “Coaching as a nurse practitioner strategy for improving health outcomes,” Journal of the AmericanAcademy of Nurse Practitioners 19 (2007), 560.
  3. Ibid., 558.
  4. D. Edmond Hiebert, “Pauline Images of a Christian Leader,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September 1976), 219.
  5. At this point it is important to note that a coachee does not have to hold a professional job in order to be coached. Coaching a person in her skills as they related to professional skills and abilities is the focus on this paper, but it is not meant to be exclusive to only professional people who can be coached.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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