The CoachAccountable Blog

What's new with the CA platform, tutorials on using it, and customer spotlights.

Why Version 3 Was Kept Secret

I released CoachAccountable Version 3 now nearly three weeks ago, pretty much out of the blue as far as anyone was concerned.  If you’ve been a user of CA for months or years, you had no idea it was coming if you weren’t among the very select few that I told in advance.

Yet V3 was in the making since early 2016, well over a year and a half.  The more conventional thing to do for a software company is to talk up such a project, to drive hype, interest and attention so that everyone can be all like “OMG it’s so good!” when it finally drops.

Why did I keep such a large project, one that would ostensibly demonstrate a positive sign that the platform was continuing to move forward, so thoroughly under wraps?

I offer insight into that question as sort of glimpse into the inner workings of the enterprise that is CoachAccountable, or, you might say, a glimpse into how I roll.

Let me take you back to my first and only straight job that I had out of college.  I worked for a small eCommerce company that would eventually be gobbled up by Network Solutions.  It was shopping cart software, a software-as-a-service business before “SaaS” was an in-vogue acronym, that allowed our customers to run their own online store.

I started that summer in tech support.  Our company’s software was then on version 3, and for months the sales people, owners, tech support; pretty much everyone customer facing had been pointing to the forthcoming version 4 as the solution to all woes.  “You need to organize your store into sub- sub- categories?  Version 4 will do that!”  “That bug that’s making your life miserable?  Totally fixed in version 4!”

Don’t worry, version 4 is coming.

As you might imagine, trading heavily on the promise of a not-yet-completed piece of software created a certain external pressure to get version 4 done and launched already, FFS.

So it was launched.  After months of unmet anticipated launch dates broken promises it finally launched in the fall.  All customers were migrated over in scheduled waves over about a 3 week period, no option to opt out.

That’s when the pain started.  Problem was version 4 was a piece of shit.

I mean, rushing will do that, right?  But they felt compelled to launch among a rising tide of unmet expectations and upset, and understandably so.

For about 2 months it was all hands on deck, everyone working a few extra hours each night to put out fires and calm pissed off customers.  Support ticket queues, which had seldom got more than 10 open at a time, rocketed up into the hundreds, peaking I believe at something like 1200.

It seemed like everyone had something that was borked with their online store as a result of the migration, or some key feature they relied on in version 3 that was buggy in version 4 (or just plain not there, like the ability print an order invoice–yeesh, how’d that get missed?).

But at least folks had sub- sub- categories.

Anyway that was my experience of a new version launch as performed by a legit, buttoned up software company.  I’m a little older and wiser these 14 years hence, and now I run my own software company.

I look back at the experience then and think the whole affair was kinda bush league.  I mean, it wasn’t really, because the bumpiness seen in that particular launch is so darn common.  There’s this general tendency for us all to wince at the prospect of a new version [of software that we already rely on], because the launches thereof being kind of a shit show is practically to be expected.

Still, informed by what I consider the mistakes of the past, I resolved NOT ON MY WATCH.  When Rob gave me designs that pulled for essentially a complete overhaul of the UI, thus befitting of a new major version release, I figured the only acceptable way to do it would be to give CoachAccountable Version 3 the time it needed to be a great product from the first day of its release.

Specifically, this actually entailed quite a lot:

  • I would not hurry its development to meet external expectations.
  • I would not create any external expectations, i.e. I would not offer up the new as the not-yet-existing solution to current woes.
  • I would test the shit out of it1 to ensure I was proud to have it out there.
  • I would make it good enough to be compelling for current customers to want to switch.
  • No one would be forced to switch2.
  • Everyone could test drive and play around with the new freely without being stuck there.
  • It would be ready to use FULLY on Day 1.
  • Every feature that existed in the old would be present in the new.
  • I would NOT be buried under issues and bugs post launch.

So?  I took my sweet time to build Version 3.

At times it was hard to labor in isolation for such a long stretch, with little external feedback to motivate the huge undertaking.  A few noticed that the clip of new releases had stalled out relative to the norm, prompting them to innocently ask “Hey, uh, you working on something you’ve not shared with us?”  It was a fun question to answer.

It’s been a long road but I’m incredibly pleased with the end result.

Three weeks hence I’m proud to report that I’ve NOT been buried under issues and bugs to deal with amid now thousands of users poking around in V3 (as compared to just Paolo and I being in there for so long).

Have the masses found bugs that he and I did not?  Yep, but nothing I haven’t been able to keep on top of.  Our open ticket queue remains well below 10 as the bug reports trickle in, the majority of which I’ve been able to fix within minutes, and the trickiest of which took about two hours (here’s looking at you, automatically responsively resizing embeddable login widget iframe!).

So THAT’S why the secret.  I wasn’t willing to, with current or prospective customers, trade on software that didn’t yet exist, because I didn’t want the stress of external expectations weighing on (and compromising) the process of creating it.

As a result it is my absolute pleasure to give to the coaching community a shiny, vastly improved coaching platform, offered at the same price (cheaper, actually, given that White Labeling is free in V3), and without the downsides of either compromise (missing or buggy features) or force (having to give up what you already know and love).

Merry Christmas, Coaching industry.

Love,
John :)

Notes:

  1. Sorry, I’m cussing a lot in this post, aren’t I?  I’m just really passionate about doing software development in the manner I consider to be right.
  2. At some point I’ll probably scuttle the old and so yes, everyone will have to move to the new, but there’s no hurry.

Version 3

This has been in the works for a long time.

It was January of last year (2016) that I invited Lee and Rob, my business partners from back in the Version 1 days (circa 2008-2009), for a meeting to discuss giving CoachAccountable an aesthetic facelift.

You see Rob was the one behind the pretty pixels of the original CA, and it was those pretty pixels that I have extended, remixed, and repurposed throughout all of Version 2’s tenure.  Though the passage of 8 years rendered that look ostensibly stale and dated, there was no one else I’d rather work with to give CA a cleaner, more modern look, and no one I trusted more to design away the sins of my years of cobbling (and over indulgence in CSS gradients :).

“I’d like to basically give it a fresh coat of paint.  A new set of icons, some updated styling rules to pretty up those areas wherein my own programmer design instincts could be improved upon, and whatever tidying up to better unify the visually inconsistent bits.” I said during our two hour pow wow.  “Could be fun to call this ‘Version 3’, I’ve been evolving Version 2 for over three years now so you could say we’re due.”

Team LeeRob did me way more than I bargained for.

Rather design than a paint job, they went deep into researching modern app designs to re-imagine what CoachAccountable could look like if newly designed today.  The mock-ups they presented me took me quite by surprise.

I confess it was not love at first sight.  I mean it sort of was, because yes, they were gorgeous.  But my overarching sentiment was a mix between “But it looks so different from the current version that I and my customers have come to know and love!” and “Oh fuck, this is going to be a lot of work.”1.

It was all a sort of mental inertia from a successful 3+ years run of the old aesthetic.  Happily, my attitude towards the overhaul softened considerably once I’d built a bunch of it and experienced CoachAccountable in this new, slick style.  After a little while, once V3 became my new baseline for how CoachAccountable “should” look, the old seemed crusty, and even kinda ugly.

At times it was hard to have that crusty version out there as THE forward facing presentation of CoachAccountable, with no one knowing I was working on this new work of art that I kept hidden away.

Which brings us to today, when after a LOT of work I am so happy to finally reveal CoachAccountable Version 3.

So what’s new?

Well, practically everything.  It’s a bit cliche to say with a software release like this, but truly, the entire system has been given an aesthetic overhaul.  I didn’t mess with the core system functionality one bit, I mean that’s really working, and so I would do so at my own peril, but everything got re-imagined and remixed towards the dual purposes of “make it beautiful” and “make it a joy to use”.

Consider the coach dashboard, that vital jumping off point.  From Version 2:

And here’s what it looks like in Version 3:

Pretty different, right?  And yet super consistent with V2 in terms of functionality.  Longtime users of CoachAccountable should find themselves quickly feeling right at home within Version 3.  Version 3 is fully on feature parity with Version 2, yet there are a couple of key differences worth pointing out in this broad overview.

White Labeling is now Free

One of the most constant gripes about Version 2 is that the right to white label it costs $50/month.  I had my reasons for this, but the main one, to serve as sort of price segmenting that helped me to bootstrap this whole endeavor, no longer holds as necessary.

Business is good, so I’m happy to, as a gift to my customers, give up that sizable chunk of revenue and open up the nicety that is having the system branded as your very own to everyone else.  (Fun fact: this allowed me to skip a bunch of work of bringing forth the branded/not branded dichotomy into the Version 3 code–benevolent laziness for the win!)

Besides being free, White Labeling is improved in several ways.  For example your system-generated email templates are more customizable than before:

Desktop and Mobile are now One

CA Mobile was the alternate, minified version of Version 2 that was cooked up to responsively accommodate smaller devices.  It got the job done, but it was a pared down experience focused on the day to day work of coaching interactions.

By contrast Version 3 is completely responsive.  It just works on any size screen, meaning every device is able to elegantly access the complete system.  The only exception is drag and drop operations on a touch only device.  Since dragging on a touch screen is essentially relegated to scrolling purposes, the drag-and-drop course builder, for example, isn’t fully functional on a smartphone.

Please, no one try to build a course from their smartphone. ;)

Otherwise it’s just all there.  You can get a live taste for how this works by firing CA up on your desktop, and just drag the corner of your browser around to resize the window any which way and watch the system rearrange itself on the fly.  It just works.

Behind the scenes, I’m excited because when I build a new feature, there will be no need to do it twice to cover both mobile and desktop–there’s just one code base to rule them all, meaning I can advance the platform more quickly.

Folder Organization

Popular demand for some time has been calling for a way to organize files into folders.  Done and done, and this holds for templates and courses as well.

Create folder hierarchies as deep as you like, drag and drop both items and folders to move ’em around.  It should feel pretty natural to everyone used to working with file systems on modern computers2.

In-app help, for coaches AND clients

The UI of Version 3 is no longer cluttered with inline instructions like were common in V2.  Instead I’ve put that sort of thing into an in-app help system that is woven throughout the system.  On nearly every page and pop up window you’ll find a light bulb icon, which, when clicked, will jump you right to the relevant article.

For example, take the screenshot just above of the Worksheet Templates page.  When we click the light bulb icon in the top right there, this help article slides right into view, like so:

What’s cool is that from whatever article is loaded we can surf around to other related articles, or do a search of the whole knowledge base.  We can resize this help sidebar to take up as much or as little space as is ideal, making it possible to have the guide present while we’re doing our thing within the app.

Also cool?  This very help system is present for your clients, too.  Their side of the house contains its own separate collection of help articles, paired down and tailored to just those things that they would need to know and get answers to.  This should make it easier for them to on-board themselves and feel comfortable in this new system you’ve invited them to.


Again, this overhaul that I’m calling Version 3 was much more encompassing than I’d bargained for when I first discussed a design update with Lee & Rob.  Big hat tip to those two for pushing me to make CoachAccountable the best possible version of itself (they’re amazing designers and creative consultants, they’re busy but hire them if you can).  It runs faster, works better, and is prettier throughout.

It is the perfect foundation for moving forward with what’s next for CoachAccountable, and after all the heads down work done is secret to get this out the door I am excited to finally once again extend the platform with new functionality.

Should be fun!

Notes:

  1. Sorry for the cussing, just want to give an accurate portrayal for the record!
  2. A.K.A everyone.  Or at least everyone who’s likely to end up ever using CoachAccountable.

Five Years

This year’s cake is actually vegan and gluten free.  You can hardly taste the difference!

Holy moly, that’s like half a decade!

As I look back over the (now quite long) path of this endeavor I’m struck by how thoroughly CoachAccountable has moved past the “startup” phase, how far beyond that humble “Yeah, I’m going to make a web app to help coaches and see if it takes!” hopeful state.

CoachAccountable has taken.

This past year was our biggest yet by a lot in terms of the number of coaches we helped to deliver better and more results-based coaching, and the number of their clients who had a more supported experience with the help of our platform.

Paolo, my first hire and who came on board during this fifth year, turned out to be a lucky hire indeed.  As many of you have experienced Paolo is wicked smart and a patient teacher for coaches all along the technophobe spectrum.  He is talented well beyond answering support issues and giving demos, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be the first to join the CoachAccountable team.

Five years.  I’d like to give a nod to the late, great David Bowie whose song of the same name has been playing in my head for the better part of today and all of composing this missive.

Our work is far from done, so I say here’s to five more.  I’ve had so many life-giving and inspiring interactions with coaches while on this path, so it is decidedly my pleasure to keep on it in service of the practice I revere.

 

Helping Your Clients Understand How You’re Going to Use CoachAccountable

I got a note the other week with an interesting ask from Adil of Adil Iman Coaching:

Evening John,

Hope all is well. I love the software and I will be sure to sign up after the trial.  I am shooting a video next week about what happens in a coaching session and there after.

Are you okay for me to mention this software and if so what could I say in a nutshell to sell the idea.

Any suggestions or scripts would be fantastic.

Thank you for creating a great software.

Regards,
Adil

I found this interesting because it made me consider a problem I’ve never myself had: how to sell the idea of using CoachAccountable to a client.  As you might imagine I’m steeped deep within the world of using CA and I practically shudder to think of the dark days of trying to coach without it (they’re not dark days, of course, I just remember it being much harder and a lot less rigorous).

So I naturally think there’s nothing to it: if they’re sold on you as a coach you can just shuffle them right along into your process (a sort of “Welcome to the program, here’s what we’re going to do: we’ll be tracking our plans and our results in here, etc. etc.”).

But of course there’s power in being able to show of how you’ll be doing your work BEFORE your client signs on the dotted line.  I was reminded of this truth by a note I got this morning, a coach named Christina who opened to say “I would love to use CA as a way to differentiate myself. E.g. on my website – let my clients know that when they coach with me they get access to CA.”

So this is a useful area for us help coaches in.  It’s a tricky proposition: every coach has a different style so it’s tricky to prepare materials for a diverse collection of coaches who are going to be working with an even more diverse collection of clients, but there are a few resources we can offer that cover the more universal, broad strokes.

The “Show your value” video illustrates a number of ideas on how to showcase your coaching for prospective clients with the aid of CoachAccountable.

The Client Manual is another resource you as coach have handy to share with your clients, to better let them know what they’ll be getting with you.

But here Adil gave me another interesting angle: if you were to shoot a video to explain to a client what they’re getting themselves into, what would you say to introduce the use of CoachAccountable?

Here’s the example riff I gave Adil for such a script, which I think is surprisingly applicable and adaptable across the board:

…So by the end of our coaching session you and I are going to have come up with a few things: things for you to keep in mind during the coming week, a few action items for you to tackle before the next time we talk, maybe we’ll have you tracking something.

To make this all real (and not just some cool ideas of what do to) we’re going to set these things up in CoachAccountable, to support you AFTER our session in getting these things done.  The reminders will help to ensure you follow through on what there is, and when we reconvene the next time you and I are both going to have a very clear picture of what you got accomplished during the interim, and where you could use some extra support.

We’re gonna gonna focus on real results, we’re gonna make sure you’re making real progress.  You’re gonna love it.

Just as I was happy to share this with Adil I’m happy to share this with you to plagiarize freely.  Tailor it to the specifics of your coaching practice as you see fit to best convey how CA will play a vital and enhancing component of the experience of being coached by you.

We’re going to go deeper into how to get your clients excited to work with you specifically because of what you’ll be able to bring to them via CoachAccountable, but for now these ideas should give you a nice foundation on which to build.  Enjoy!

Getting Clients to Love Using CoachAccountable

CoachAccountable is designed to be a complete experience for coach and client, with the intended goal being to make the coaching relationship better for both parties. This comes with the assumption that coaches AND clients use the system. Due to a number of reasons: lack of familiarity, aversion to technology in general, the hesitance that comes with trying anything new, clients might not use the system as much as you’d like, or how you’d like.

Fortunately, we’ve noticed a number of things one can do that increases the likelihood that clients not only use the system, but embrace it and love it.

Clients should know that you’re a fan, a big fan

To start, we’ve noticed that clients who take to the system do so because the coaches themselves are fans of the system. More importantly, these coaches communicate to the clients that using the system is an important part of their coaching experience. Some coaches even pitch CoachAccountable as an “added bonus” clients receive as part of their coaching program, and talk about the ease and convenience that online software will afford them.

There’s something to be said about showing enthusiasm when letting your clients know about the benefits of using software and how it’ll make their lives easier.

Communicate HOW you want your clients to use the system

Related to this, coaches should have an idea of how they’d like their clients to use the system, and be able to communicate this to their clients. Clarity is key here. If you expect clients to be more active users, ones that setup their own Actions, Worksheets, Metrics, and are active in Journaling, make that clear. If you expect clients to be more passive, only interacting with CA via the various notifications and email reminders that get sent out, that’s fine as long as it’s clearly communicated.

A bit can be said about selling the process here. For example, the more passive type of usage can be billed as a simple, time-friendly way to interact with the software. Many clients are busy, and this is the perfect way to improve results but also keep actual software usage time to a minimum.

Communicating that the system is important, as well as how to use it, can be done in many ways. Aside from your personal interactions via actual client calls, there are many opportunities within CA. Some coaches assign an initial Worksheet that welcomes the client to the system and walks them through certain features and how to use them — a personalized software manual if you will. You can also use a Whiteboard as a persistent reference. Feel free to use both.

Some coaches record screencast videos of themselves as as clients, clicking around the system and talking about the experience. None of this needs to be long — the best ones are relatively short and to the point (videos less than 1 minute). Starter Kit Courses are great for onboarding new clients so that they hit the ground running.

Metrics, Metrics, Metrics

Another important thing is to setup at least one or two Metrics for your clients. If you’re not sure what to track, you can ask them. Metrics are important because they make progress real for your clients. Metrics basically take your coaching, and the impact that you make, and turn it into numbers that your clients see. This is exciting stuff and should be communicated to the clients as such. Clients should know that Metrics are a way of showing that the coaching that they’re paying money for is having a tangible impact in their lives.

Metrics

Happenings Reports

The Stream allows a client to view a record of their work within the system. It does its job well, but still requires the client to login and actually click into the Stream tab.

Especially for clients that seem to interact with CA only via email, Happenings Reports can be a nice way of showing them their progress. Having an automated email summary of what they’ve been up to show up right in their inbox can certainly be a delight. More on Happenings Reports here.

Happenings Report

Everything discussed above assumes a certain amount of proficiency in CoachAccountable — in other words, knowing the tools that exist and how to use them. Understanding the system well and being able to communicate its benefits increases the likelihood that clients embrace CA.  To that end, I encourage you to reach out to us at support@coachaccountable.com if you’d like to brainstorm about anything regarding to your coaching, or simply just to do a session to understand the system better.  Happy Coaching!

On Not Overwhelming Your Clients

I’m going to open this discussion with a quote:

With great power comes great responsibility.
– Voltaire (or maybe Spiderman, for some reason it’s not clear)

CoachAccountable gives you, as coach, great power to cause accountability, follow through, and ultimately results with the people you coach.  It can serve as a brilliant “auto nag” system that can gently guide your clients to act upon your coaching, doing so in a hands-off manner that takes the edge off any creepy feeling that you’re obsessing over what they’re doing (or not doing) in a given week.

You have the power to set in motion timely reminders for the assignments you give your clients, helpful reminders for upcoming appointments, notifications of when deadlines have slipped, and routine prompts for tracking things of importance.

These things can be sent via email or text.  They happen automatically.  They nudge your clients to succeed.  They’re great.

Until they’re not.

This great power entails great responsibility: you can setup CoachAccountable to be this lovely vehicle of awareness, but by the same token you can (inadvertently!) setup CoachAccountable to spam your clients into annoyance and tuning out the whole thing.

With great power comes great responsibility.

We occasionally hear from coaches (sometimes as part of their cancellation feedback!) that their clients are overwhelmed by the notifications that CA sends.

I’m going to make a provocative statement here and now about client overwhelm and CA:

If your clients are overwhelmed by the notifications of CoachAccountable, you’re doing it wrong.

This is good news, though: like any bad thing with which the ball’s in your court, you have the power to do something about it.

Happily, CoachAccountable gives you a LOT of control by which to do something about it.  Let’s take a look!

Notification Settings

The first place to go to tune how much and when CoachAccountable notifies your clients (and you!) is over on the right in Settings >> System >> Notifications.

This page offers numerous settings; here are the ones concerning Actions and Worksheets.

Maybe we just shouldn’t notify our clients when things fall behind, and just talk about it on our calls instead?

With a few clicks you can turn off notifications for late assignments for all of your clients.  Note how many of these are to do with YOUR preferences, when YOU want the system to send you notification of things your clients are up to.  (So if you as coach are feeling overwhelmed, this is a good page to visit!)

Appointment Reminder Defaults

If you use CoachAccountable to schedule appointments with your clients, the system will send handy reminders to both you and them to ensure you’re both prepared for a productive session.  When setting up your Appointment Types (Settings >> Appointment Config >> Appointment Types) you can create a set of default appointments.

In these defaults you can find a nice balance between being reasonably certain your clients will be prepared for your session, like this…

Appointment Reminders

This should suffice to have ’em come prepared.

…and just plain annoying them, like this:

Too many reminders

Why would anybody do this? Please nobody do this.

Assignment Reminders

Like Appointments, when setting up Action items and Worksheets for your clients you are able to set in motion a collection of reminders to go with it, like so:

One thing working in our favor here is that once an Action (or Worksheet) has been marked complete, the system won’t send out any more reminders for it (no need to be reminded to do something that’s already been done, right?).

There is still to use moderation.  It might be temping to setup a big string of reminders (it’s not due for 2 weeks, I should have the system remind them every day so they don’t forget!), but again we want to make sure our clients don’t get more reminders than would actually be difference-making.  When we cross that threshold we risk entering the eyes-glaze-over zone for these notifications (wherein they’re simply ALL ignored).

For longer term assignments I like to give 2 reminders: one that’s somewhere in the middle of the time span between assignment and due date (a sort of “hey, this assignment is still out there, so make sure you’re working on it!”), and one that’s just a little before the deadline (ideally functioning as a “hey, you’ve still got enough time to get this done on time, so please get on it if you haven’t already!”).

Smaller or more near term assignments I like to give 1 or zero reminders.  Why would I not set any reminders at all?  Well…

Be Mindful of the Whole Picture

In a coaching call you and your client might come up with a dozen good things for he or she to get done in the coming week.  Reminders for each is apt to be tedious: you might attach a reminder to just a few key Action items, or maybe even make an additional Action item to serve as a helpful prompt for your client to get crackin’ on their list:

Your preferred degree of flippant vulgarity, of course. Never underestimate the boon of a little levity.

Mind any Metric Mayhem

Metrics keep your clients on top of performance and reporting of key thing they’re out to track/improve over the course of working for you.  Reminders make reporting a breeze, being sent off whichever days a data point is called for.  Some things they’ll be tracking weekly, some things they’ll be tracking daily.

Like “Being Mindful of the Whole Picture” above, think about how the collection of Metrics a given client is working on will play out in terms of reminders.  If they have, say, 8 things they’re tracking daily, it could be a bit much to get 8 emails every day, each prompting your client for “What’s your number on this thing for today?”.  If you’ve got your client tracking a lot of things regularly you might skip all the reminders and setup something like a regular Worksheet into which they can report on everything in one fell swoop.

Group Notification Settings

Groups are great in that they serve as a hub for your coaching groups to communicate about the shared experience of going through your coaching program, a way to foster a sense of community and shared accountability.  But for some people in some groups, getting an email every time someone posts a message or a comment to the group is just too much.

Let your clients know that they can opt out of comments and/or messages from other group members by simply clicking the “Settings” button while logged in and looking at the Group.  You as coach can set the defaults for these settings to whatever is going to be most appropriate for your people:

Zero to Sixty in 4-5 (settings)

Ultimately CoachAccountable can be configured to send way too many notifications to your clients, or none at all.  Between these two extremes lies a sweet spot for any given client, a volume in which CoachAccountable is sending helpful prompts to keep progress moving along between your sessions and without blowing up their inbox.  Tuning the settings in these 4 or 5 areas will allow you and your clients to find just that right balance.

There’s no one size fits all, but know that you don’t have to get it perfect right off the bat.  After they’ve been on it for a week or two, ask your client how the system’s automated notifications are working and tune as needed.  It’s a great way to be truly of service to your client, and to help them get the most out of your coaching.

My First In Person With A Customer

Most of the time, I interact with CoachAccountable customers through phone, email, or screen share. While I think those are all perfectly acceptable forms of communication, I relish the opportunity to meet with a customer face to face. Getting to know coaches is one of the perks of my work, and the best way to do so is in person.

That opportunity — my first — came up the other week. David Frank Gomes, of Life Compass Coaching, emailed John to ask a couple of questions. David recently joined the volunteer board of Create Change, a charity working to empower girls and youth in Canada and Ghana, and he wanted to know how to best setup program participants in CoachAccountable.

David, who resides in beautiful Vancouver, has been a user and fan of CoachAccountable for a couple of years now, and had actually met with John in person a back in 2014. Since I had a trip planned to Vancouver to visit family, John suggested that David and I meet up. Thank you John for keeping me in mind!

David and I ended up meeting at a cafe right next to the scenic Granville Island. Coffee in hand and laptop and iPad open, we talked about how to best setup the Create Change program — a leadership and marketing program for Vancouver highschool kids who raise money to send girls in Ghanan to school — in CoachAccountable.

It was a fantastic time. I listened to his vision for the program and how CA would fit. We went through Courses and Groups and piping in Worksheets from Metrics. One suggestion I gave that seems to be much appreciated with whoever I talk to is the idea of Starter Kit Courses. If nothing else, take advantage of the automatic delivery of Courses to send onboarding messages, Worksheets, and maybe even a short screencast tutorial to get new clients off and running with the system.

The beauty of meeting up in person is the conversation: the attempt to understand the coach and the program and the subsequent feedback and back and forth that occurs as new questions and ideas inevitably arise. And to top it all off, selfies are possible:

davidandpaolo

I appreciate the chance to get to know our customers because I end up learning more about coaching, why folks become coaches, and more and more, what quality coaching looks like. All valuable knowledge in and of itself, but especially in the context of the work I do.

Thanks for meeting up with me David. It was lovely chatting with you and I’m glad I could be of service!

Delightful Collaboration VIII – Setting Location and Description for Appointments

Here is a great example of where CoachAccountable gets better through me being exposed to a style of doing things other than my own.

The calendar feed of appointments is a lovely thing, allowing both coaches and clients to have appointments [set within CoachAccountable] appear right within their usual calendars (like Google Calendars, iCal, and Outlook).

Beyond the what and when, calendar software aficionados know that it’s handy to have location and descriptive information about a calendar event be right there as well.

For my sake when it comes to coaching appointments there’s nothing to it: “where” is invariably on the phone, and there are no access or dial-in details to speak of, or really anything else–I call them and that’s that.

Liz HeimanBut last Thursday I had a great call with Liz Heiman of Percio Strategies.  We went over a bevy of great questions of how to setup and do this or that within CA, and Liz made a great case for how useful it would be to have location and description information about an appointment appear right along side appointments within people’s calendars: vital for coordination of meeting locations and a great boon to timely attendance to have dial in information right there for attendees.

I.e. CoachAccountable really should have location and description information settable for appointments, and that information should appear right in people’s calendars.

I was sold.  I spent the afternoon adding this to CoachAccountable.  Let’s see how this works!


Adding location and/or descriptive information to your CoachAccountable Appointments starts with your setup of Appointment Types.

When adding or editing any Appointment Type, scroll down and you’ll see a new line toward the bottom, “Extra:”, with a link to click:

Edit Appointment Type

Give it a click and you’ll be presented with places to type in your extra information:

Extra

Once setup for a given Appointment Type, you’ll have this information pre-filled in for any appointments you schedule of this type.  If you’d like to modify this information (or even just give it a peek) you can by clicking the “Modify location/description information…” link when scheduling:

Edit Location

This is nice if, say, the dial-in information varies sometimes, or you want to add a little note for your clients to see in their calendars:

Once this is set, where can this be seen by coach and client?

First off it’s visible to both parties within CoachAccountable in the widget listing of upcoming appointments.  Simply click on the Calendar icon for an appointment that has either or both a location and description set, and it will appear:

But the real fun of this is having this information appear right in your calendar system of choice, provided you’ve done the one-time setup to make your CoachAccountable appointments appear there.  Here’s how that appointment shows up when viewed in Google Calendar:

And there you have it!  You can put key location and descriptive information in your appointment types if it’s standard and consistent, customize it when scheduling specific appointments in case it’s not, and ultimately have this information appear right in yours and your client’s calendars automatically.

My thanks again to Liz for her insightful glimpse into the world of relying upon calendar scheduling and integration for more than just the what and when, CoachAccountable is better for its expanded support of calendar integration!

How to Integrate CoachAccountable with your Website

You may already have a website whose purpose is to present you and your services to the world, and if so you might wonder how best to “integrate” that website with CoachAccountable.

It turns out that CA is itself designed to be a complete experience for your clients, so integrating it with your regular website is often as simple as making it easy for your site visitors to log into the CoachAccountable accounts they have with you.

Here are a few ways to connect your website with CoachAccountable:

Login Link

A common way to integrate CoachAccountable with your coaching site or member portal is to make a link from your site to CoachAccountable’s login page (https://www.coachaccountable.com/login).

Wrap the login link as a button or even a prominent line of a text, such as “Head to my personal coaching account” or “Login to my account.”  Something like this:

They can click the button or text, log in as usual, and will be taken right to the system.

You can direct your clients to check the “Keep me logged in” checkbox when they log in.  If they do so, clicking that big button in the future (from the same device) will have them be taken right from your site and on into their account, making for a truly seamless transition.

With white-labeling, this concept is taken further as the login page itself can be customized using your branding.

White-labeling allows you to direct visitors to a custom login page using a unique login link, found by going to Settings >> System >> Branding, then scrolling down to Login Page. This custom login page always appears branded according to your settings.

Use this simple but effective method to unite CA with your website, and give your clients a straightforward means to access their accounts.

Remote Login

White-Label Branding gives you the ability to embed a login widget on your website.  This is similar to the login link above, except now your clients have the ability to enter their username and password right from your website — no need to be taken to an intermediary page to do so.  Here’s what the login widget looks like, embeddable anywhere:

Relatively basic, but can be customized with your CSS.

Head to Settings >> System >> Branding, and select Login Widget. Here you’ll find the HTML snippet you’ll place somewhere on your website. This section also allows you to define the logout URL, where clients get taken after they log-out, the text that appears on the widget, and any custom CSS you would like to style the widget with.

Remote Login

Due to the ability to match the style of the widget to that of your website, Remote Login is a truly consistent method of integrating your two systems.

Both a simple login link and the login widget represent two easy ways of integrating your site with CoachAccountable. Give these a try: there’s a good chance you’ll find one of these approaches is all that’s needed to integrate CoachAccountable with your website.

Using CoachAccountable to Share Progress

CoachAccountable helps translate idea and insight into real, tangible progress. Over the course of a coaching engagement, this progress gets captured: Actions completed, Metrics recorded, Worksheets filled out and more all serve as tangible proof of your clients’ growth.

As a general rule, the detailed documentation of this coaching work is private, just between you and your client.  There are, however, scenarios in which it is desirable or even necessary to share how things are going to an interested third party.  When working with individuals from a client company, for example, the hiring entity will often want to peek in at how things are going in order to be assured that their coaching dollars with you are well spent.

In these situations it’s useful to take advantage of CoachAccountable’s ability to summarize client happenings and export the data in a format that’s easy to both share and understand.  CA is setup to make sharing a breeze.

Here are three methods you have available for sharing the results and progress of your coaching work.

1: Happenings Reports

Happenings Reports allow you to set up automated, recurring reports of what your clients are up to.  You set the report up once, then sit back as they get delivered to the pertinent parties on whatever regular schedule you choose.

Setup is simple. Head to Settings >> Happenings Reports and click +Happenings Report (button in the upper left). From here you’ll simply need to indicate who to send to, which clients to report on, and when to send.

Here’s what one looks like in your inbox:

Happenings Report Email

Happenings Reports are meant to be versatile enough to handle different types of recipients and scenarios. For example, you might find HR management calling for once-a-month reports on concrete, quantifiable evidence of client performance. A Happenings Report is perfect for this, especially one that hyper-focuses on the numbers by being configured to include only Metrics.

Another useful feature of Happenings Reports is the ability for client and coach to make comments on any item within a Happenings Report via email by clicking on the small comment icon next to the item. Comments made via email are recorded in CoachAccountable as Stream Item, and (as always) emailed automatically to the other party.

This feature creates another opportunity for you and your clients to have productive discourse. In this way, Happenings Reports function as both a reminder and opportunity for conversation. Going through a Happenings Report might trigger a comment that wouldn’t have been made otherwise.

To learn more you can check out the full illustrated lowdown on Happenings Reports.

2: Client Exports

Have you ever wanted to download a record of everything you and a client have ever done together?  CoachAccountable allows you to do this in a couple of clicks through Client Exports. Though not automated like Happenings Reports, Client Exports offer a bit more flexibility in how the information is presented.

On the Clients tab, hit Export for a given client. Here you’ll choose the date range that the export is to cover (or just leave it blank to include the complete history), which types of items you’d like include, and whether you want items to be displayed in chronological or reverse-chronological order.

Include as little or as much of the client record as is appropriate for your purposes.

Include as little or as much of the client record as is appropriate for your purposes.

What comes out is a lightweight HTML file that’s easy to publicly showcase, or send in a secure manner:

clientrecordaaron

Use Client Exports as case studies to show off your coaching style and results, as a regular end-of-engagement souvenir for your clients to keep, or as a way to keep interested parties in the loop on how the coaching work is unfolding. Read more about Client Exports here.

3: Direct Access

This method is the most involved but especially handy for those third parties who would like a live window into what’s going on with your clients. Rather than give someone a report, you can, with CoachAccountable Team Edition, allow them to login in order to directly view (and not interact with) certain clients of interest.

For a third party, there’s a certain assurance in this practice that nothing has been altered in any way — the third party is viewing what is actually happening in-system.

There are two ways to go about this, with the difference being how much the third party can actually see.

Approach 1: Selective Client Pairing

Client pairing is appropriate for when you want to give a third party view-only access to one or more specific clients.

To set this up, add the individual as new coach.  When presented the Permissions Settings for this new coach, designate the individual as one of the team coaches but DON’T grant any of the permissions for that role, like so:

viewonlycoachperms

This setup ensures that the third party will only be able to view the clients you pair with that coaching account. The next step is to actually do the pairing and make sure no interaction can take place between the client and the third party user. Click the Pairing button for your newly added coach, then click the clients you’d like to pair the coach with.

By default, clicking on a client will give a coach “Coaching” access. Since you don’t want the third party to actually engage with your clients, simply select the triangle in the upper right of a given client to toggle the status from “Coaching” to “View only.” Hit Save Pairings and you’re all set.

viewonlycoachpairing

The red triangle in the upper-right indicates “View-only”.  In this setup we’re giving Frank view-only access to Lee Bron.

In the majority of cases, you’ll use this client pairing approach because it allows you to retain control over which clients your third party actually sees.

Approach 2: View All Clients

This approach gives the third party complete access to view ALL clients within your account, and is useful and appropriate to, for example, give someone high up within your organization a the complete picture of all coaching being done.  It is the ultimate in administrative oversight and enables complete transparency.

Similar to selective client pairing, you’ll add the interested third party as a new coach. When presented with the permission settings, instead of making this person one of the team coaches you’ll give them an administrative only role.   Then under the Administrative Permissions, check the boxes for “View all client happenings”.  If groups are relevant and this individual should also get to see all group happenings, check the “View all Group happenings” permission as well.

viewonlyadminperms1

This user will, like a normal coach, be able to login and see the list of clients as well as everything your clients are up to.

The Admin can't interact with the client at all. Notice the lack of big, green buttons.

The Admin can’t interact with the client at all. Notice the lack of the usual big, green adder buttons.

A powerful and detailed record of the coaching work naturally arises over the course of using the tools of CoachAccountable within a coaching relationship.  In addition to making the actual week-to-week coaching better, you can leverage this record to share the results of your work and better demonstrate the value of your work.  Enjoy!