The CoachAccountable Blog

Master CoachAccountable and become the best dang coach you can be. Also, news.

2-Factor Authentication via SMS

Last week we got an earnest inquiry Andrew Hinkelman of Priority 1 Group that was very simple:

Do you offer multifactor authentication (MFA) for client credentials/login? If so, I assume one factor could be a code sent via text message?

When Morgan replied the truth of the matter, no we do not, we got back:

Is multifactor authentication on your roadmap? If so, roughly when?

Well, at the time it really wasn’t.  Morgan let him know the full scoop, and got back the following:

I’m an executive coach working with leaders in tech. I’m also a recent CTO and managed a team responsible for information security. So… I think not having an additional authentication factor is a deal-breaker for me. I simply cannot direct my corporate clients to use a SaaS service that is not hitting baseline security measures and expect them to use the platform for sharing/storing our 1:1 coaching work.
I really loved everything else I saw about coach accountable so I’m bummed to have to restart my search…

“Not hitting baseline security measures?!?”  Well now, that’s really throwing down the gauntlet, isn’t it? :)

And far be it for me to make Andrew have to restart his search!

In truth, adding 2-factor authentication isn’t terribly hard, ESPECIALLY if we skip over authenticator apps and just start with SMS-based.  CoachAccountable is already set up to transact via SMS in countries that represent over 90% of our users.

I’ve had MFA come up as a request a few times over the last several years (expressed interest has been really quite rare, actually).  I didn’t jump on cooking up SMS-based 2FA on account of cutting edge security researcher reports that SMS was technically not a fully secure channel, owning to the possibility of various SIM card attacks and other niche weaknesses.

But really that was an instance of me letting perfect be the enemy of good.

The fact remains that even humble SMS-based second-factor authentication is a practical step up: in a world where defense-in-depth matters (and indeed it does, for we don’t ALL live in a spy movie being targeted by nation state actors), even mostly secure measures make a meaningful difference!

So I’m happy to report CoachAccountable now supports 2-Factor Authentication over SMS, i.e. for all our users in the US, Canada, UK and Australia1.  Let’s see how it works!

Enabling 2-Factor Authentication

Anyone with a CoachAccountable account able to receive SMS messages from CA can easily and quickly enable 2-Factor Authentication.  A quick visit to the My Account >> User Profile is all it takes:

User Profile form showing the "Enable 2-Factor Authentication" check box

This checkbox will appear when (1) you’ve got a cell number entered and (2) you’ve chosen one of the countries that CA supports SMS in.

If you’ve got a cell number entered, and are in one of the SMS-enabled countries, that “Enable 2-Factor Authentication (via SMS)” checkbox will appear.  Check it, click Save, and it is done!

Using 2-Factor Authentication

When 2FA is enabled, upon successfully logging in you’ll be greeted with pretty much exactly what you’d expect:

2FA Security Code Prompt

Meanwhile your phone will have received a text from CoachAccountable, containing the security code called for in-app.  Type it in correctly and you’ll be on your way.

Even with 2FA enabled, you’ll still have the usual “Keep me logged in” checkbox when logging in.  If you check that, you’ll only need to enter your security code once on that device (until you manually log yourself out again, of course).

2FA and Magic Links

CoachAccountable will still send magic links in emails to you (and your clients) that have the effect of automatically logging you in.  This auto-login behavior sidesteps the need for an SMS authentication entirely: access to your email effectively becomes the second factor of authenticating yourself.

Accordingly, using the Login Helper/password reset system will allow you to get around any problems you may have in receiving that SMS code to your mobile number on file, allowing you to change things as needed.

Summing Up and Looking Ahead

For over 90% of our users, Multi-Factor Authentication is now a thing in CoachAccountable.  It is completely optional, but easy to activate for anyone who would like that added peace of mind brought by the extra security.

Eventually I’m sure I’ll add authenticator app support, so that all users will have the option to secure their accounts by MFA.  But for now I’m happy to release a win for most.

Finally, my express thanks to Andrew, whose thoughtful comments brought about this enhancement much sooner than later.  Here’s to the journey of continuous progress!

Note:
  1. Or, more precisely, users who have a US, Canadian, UK, or Australian phone number capable of receiving SMS messages.

Calendar Sync via Email Invites

CoachAccountable calendar sync now has a big leg up for those clients who just can’t be bothered to actually set any of it up.

For a long time now, it’s been the case that both coaches and their clients can sync their calendar of choice (be it Google, Outlook, or Apple) with CoachAccountable.  This enables CA to automatically add whatever appointments get scheduled to the calendar of choice and, in the case of coaches, read their availability for the sake of avoiding double booking.

This is great for both parties, and, on account of the whole double-booking-avoidance thing, is especially a win for coaches.

But sometimes clients can’t be bothered.  For some it’s an extra step that they just don’t (or won’t) get around to.  For others it might be concerns over security, sometimes based on corporate IT policy or the like, that make full-on calendar sync a non-starter.

As an alternative to full-on calendar sync, CA has long supported the ability to subscribe to ICS calendar feeds.  But that too puts the impetus on clients to actually set it up.

Enter calendar invites via email

As a solution to the hurdle of clients needing to actually do something for your coaching appointments to appear in their calendar, CA now provides for a robust (yet totally passive) approach.  Clients can now receive calendar invites by email for all appointments you schedule with them, meaning those appointments will be automatically added to their calendar as those email notifications are received.

Likewise, calendar invites can also describe (and affect) changes to previously scheduled appointments, namely rescheduling and canceling.

Calendar Sync Options for Clients

The addition of email invite-based calendar sync means your clients now have three options to choose from.  Your clients will find these when logged in under My Account >> Calendar Sync:

By default, this is about what they’ll see: email notifications turned on, and 2 other approaches they can opt for as well.

Let’s consider closely the new settings clients have about the email notifications they receive:

Include calendar invites in appointment notification emails allows clients to opt into getting those calendar invite attachment files at all, receipt of which generally has the effect of automatically adding appointments to a related calendar.

In addition to notifications about newly scheduled appointments, these invites will be attached to notifications of rescheduling and canceling, meaning those calendar entries will be updated (and removed) as needed, too.

Email me a confirmation about appointments I schedule allows clients to opt into getting emails about things that they themselves just did.  If not for the calendar-syncing aspect, these emails are largely redundant: client schedules an appointment, they can see from the app UI that they did so, and then an email announces essentially “hey, you did the thing you just did”.

BUT this becomes really handy when that email contains an attachment that automatically adds the newly-scheduled appointment to their calendar.  In that case, it serves as far more than a recap of what just happened.

These confirmations of client activity extend also to rescheduling and canceling: each action will trigger a corresponding email confirmation, and if including calendar invites are opted for (that first check box), then the attached invites will also have the effect of updating (and removing) appointments from their calendar.

Note that these email notifications for calendar sync are enabled by default for all new clients.

What about your clients that have been around prior to this addition?  If they’ve setup for themselves a direct sync, these will be turned off (so it’s business usual for them).  For those who haven’t synced their calendar, this email notification-based sync has been enabled.

You as coach can see and set the Email Notification settings for your clients.  Find these in the Client Manager, under Settings >> Appointments:

The note about your client’s direct sync status is a handy hint.

From here you can see whether or not your client has already setup their calendar for a direct sync.  If they haven’t, it’s probably a good idea to have both of those check boxes checked.

When Notifications are Sent

If receiving calendar invites via email is the main mechanism for your client to keep their calendar in sync, it’s suddenly very important that they get an email notification for every appointment that gets scheduled (plus any and all rescheduling or canceling thereof).

Again, when client opts for the “Email me a confirmation about appointments I schedule” option, they’ll get suitable emails whenever they do the scheduling, rescheduling or canceling.  But what about when you as coach do those things?

When you schedule, you also has the option to send a notification to your client, like so:

The default, do send a notification and do so by email, is usually the right choice.

With notification emails now serving as a common way to get your appointments into your clients’ calendars, you’ll generally want to send the notification, and do so via email.  You retain the ability to deviate from that, just be aware that doing so can undermine that calendar syncing behavior.

The same applies for when you as coach reschedule or cancel an appointment with your client: you’ll have the option to notify your client of the change up via email, and for the same reasons doing so is highly recommended.

Appointments for Offerings

The same “auto add to calendar by email”-behavior applies now to any appointments scheduled by way of signing up for an Offering.

As always, with Offerings you can opt to have a Confirmation Email sent when someone successfully signs up for it:

Offering Confirmation Email

Generally a fine idea.

If you opt for this email to be sent, AND the Offering entails scheduling an Appointment, that email will automatically have a suitable calendar invite attached (thus automatically adding it to your new client’s calendar).

And if you DON’T have a Confirmation email set?  In this case, CA goes a little off script and sends a standard Appointment Notification email (with the calendar invite) instead.  The verbiage for this email is taken from your Appointment Notification email template, so it’ll still be on brand.

Also note that with the addition of email invites for Offerings, including the [appointmentAddToCalendarButtons] magic tag in the Confirmation Email is now far less important.

Many scheduling apps still have such buttons in emails that also have the calendar invite attachment, no doubt a sort of “make sure it gets in their calendar at all costs”-sort of shotgun approach.  So you too can include or exclude those add to calendar buttons consistent with your taste, sensibilities around clutter, and how much you do or don’t trust your clients to show up like responsible adults (in some contexts I appreciate full well that this can’t always be taken for granted!).

Email Invites for Group Appointments

Just like with one-on-one appointments, when you as coach schedule (or reschedule, or cancel) your Group Appointments, the notification emails that you can (and probably should!) opt to send will similarly comes with suitable calendar invite attachments, allowing all client members (who are included in that Group Appointment) to have that appointment automatically added to their calendars.

One caveat to this: the system will NOT email newly added group members that happen to be auto-added to future Group Appointments.  That could be a surprising gotcha, and generally speaking CA avoids sending emails to clients on your behalf without some form of your express intent to do so.

Email Invites for Appointment Series

As always, you as coach can schedule a series of Appointments with your clients or groups:

When you do so, the notification email body (that your clients will read) will contain details only about the first one.  BUT the email invite attachment will include information about the whole series, meaning each appointment in the series will get added to your client’s calendar.

Getting Caught Up or Re-syncing

Perhaps your client wants all their future appointments with you added to their calendar now.  At anytime they can visit their My Account >> Calendar Sync page, and if they have future appointments they’ll see an “Email me an invite…” button like this:

Just a click and CA will send it all.

Clicking that will cause CA to email them an attachment with a calendar invite file containing data for all of their future appointments, allowing them to quickly get those appointments into their calendar by this calendar invite mechanism.

You too, as coach, can have this email sent to your client.  For a client that has one or more future appointments, you’ll find the button to do so among their calendar sync settings (again, you’ll find this in the Client Manager, under Settings >> Appointments).

One gotcha to this: it can be fun to try deleting an appointment from your calendar and then sending this email to enjoy seeing it magically re-appear.  The problem with that is many email calendar systems will keep note of the fact that you specifically removed an appointment already, prompting it to NOT re-add it when it arrives again via email.  So delete appointments added in this fashion at your own risk: the calendar invite approach may not be able to restore it!

In Summary

The addition of these calendar invites via email is kinda a basic feature: it doesn’t make possible anything that wasn’t already, BUT from the “remove all the friction from your clients experience” angle it’s a wonderful boon to how things get done, especially at the get go.

Yes, the direct sync is more elegant and robust, allowing your client to skip the clutter of extra emails that might be largely redundant.  But this way your clients can have those appointments with you appearing in their calendar from day 1, with no effort on their part required.  And for those who want the elegance of direct sync later, they can do that as a separate step whenever they feel so inclined.

Overall it is my hope that the addition of these invites will make things run more smoothly at that most critical juncture: when you’re just getting started with a new client.  Enjoy!

Delightful Collaboration XII: Smarter Links to Course Items

The impetus for this instance of delightful collaboration came as a simple question.

In wanting the experience of doing her Courses to be a smooth as possible for her clients, Katharina Hille asked:

When I set up a new action for a client, the clients gets an email with a link (“View this online”) that brings him/her directly to the corresponding action.

But when I design a course I can only add a general login-link. Therefore I have to explain to new clients, that they have to got to “Actions” etc…

Is it possible to add this “View this online”-link in courses also?

I sat with this question for a little while, realizing how perfectly reasonable and natural the request was.  After all, one of our express aims in the design of CoachAccountable is to remove every last bit of friction from the client experience that we possibly can, making it as easy and seamless for them to show up for the life-changing work they’re engaged in.

So put in those terms, Katharina was absolutely right: if she (or anyone else!) needs to explain to clients how to find a given item in their system (when they could’ve been simply taken right to it), that’s a problem, or at best, a real missed opportunity on CA’s part.

With Course Pages, a login link in the notification email for a new section of the course has the spiffy behavior of taking clients directly to that section of that course“Brilliant!”, I thought, “I’ll just extend that ‘go-right-to-the-item-in-that-course-page’ behavior to items of all types [for page-enabled Courses]!”

So I did!

And it was good.

And then I realized Katharina wasn’t using Course Pages at all in her Courses.  Therefore that spiffy enhancement, though a step forward, would be meaningless to her use of the system.

Now since the beginning of CoachAccountable Courses, the login link for notification emails about Course Worksheets took clients right to that Worksheet, so a client was always just one click away from being able to work on it.  Course Files have also always been similarly accessible from the notification email.

So really what Katharina was asking for was to extend this spiffy behavior to the other types of Course Items, namely Actions, Metrics and Whiteboards.

And this is now done: [loginLink] magic tags in notification emails for Course Actions, Metrics and Whiteboards now just work better for everyone, no changes to the design of any Course required.  A nice win for all!

Thank Katharina for asking the question in the first place, coming from an understanding that those links could (and should) be better.  Sharing that little bit of perspective–the slog that is having to explain more to new clients–was a real gift, one that made clear the right thing to do to make CA better for all.

A More Modern Design

I wish I’d done this a long time ago.

With the release of Version 4 about 14 months ago I gave the aesthetics of CoachAccountable a spiffy refresh.  It looked pretty good to me and others, and I think it was no doubt a bright, fresh improvement on the look and feel of gray-heavy Version 3.

AND YET, even shortly after that release, we heard feedback to the tune of “Hey, the UI looks a bit dated… any plans to…”

Not often.  I don’t think that was expressed to us even so frequently as once a month.  Yet undeniably the sentiment was out there.

But I resisted it.  We’d just done a remix of the UI, and were well on our way updating screenshots and reshooting videos to match.  How daunting and disappointing, I thought, to restart that process once again.  It was a minority, fickle opinion, I told myself.  When we asked folks to clarify, or name specific elements, or point to examples of what they thought would be a better style guide, we invariably got back little to nothing by which to go on.

So I let the V4 design be while continuing work on myriad other fronts of bettering CA.

And then it was about a month ago that I read this article, titled Stay Calm and Learn This.  It’s a bit of a meandering essay on the qualities that software should engender in order to make the inevitable process of having to learn it more palatable to new users, and in it there were two assertions that really opened up my eyes to the opportunity of hitting the design drawing board once again.  The first was:

If a product is attractive to a particular audience, it further increases identification and willingness to learn.

Certainly anything that increases the willingness to learn on the part of new users is a huge boon. CoachAccountable does SO. DARN. MUCH.  Folks very much enjoy the power it offers, but only if they can be bothered to get over any initial overwhelm.  We do our best to provide resources and one-on-one time to help with this, and we do a pretty good job!  But getting a leg up on this front by merely having a prettier CA?  That’s like an amazing free lunch that keeps on giving.

The second assertion that hit me was:

Software is not free of fashion and group dynamics. We also want what others like, and gladly accept learning effort and setbacks.

Sigh.  As much distaste as I have to being a slave to fashion, this statement is certainly true.  That fashion applies to software is for me as much a revelation as it is a sheepish “well duh, yes of course” moment.

So, very well then: fashion it is.  The great news about fashion is that one hardly need to be a fashion taste maker in order to show up fashionable: you just need to be cognizant of what’s fashionable and suitably fall in line.

Right around this time, we’d gotten this note from a coach who’d just signed up:

Dear CoachAccountable, I am considering using your Team Edition product for our coaching platform.  I believe it has many of the features we are looking for at a competitive price point but the icons and design seem quite dated.  Do you have plans to refresh the design?  If so, when?

This was the same non-specific, not-terribly-actionable report, but nevertheless seeing it expressed so plainly once again is what tipped it for me: I finally decided the time was right to take the prospect of a redesign seriously, now freshly armed with pivotal perspective that made clear both the why AND how1.


There’s an old saw that goes “If you copy from one book, that™s plagiarism; if you copy from many books, that™s research.”

In that spirit, I say without the slightest shame that to remix the aesthetics of CoachAccountable and bring it up to more modern tastes, I did a lot of research. :)

And goodness, was it fun!  I perused mood boards and a wealth of pithy app screenshots, and came to be bewildering conclusion Good god it’s practically all cut from the same cloth… why was I trying so hard to differentiate in any way on aesthetics?  With every little style rule I updated, with every little piece of UI I revised, in some cases to pixel-perfect renditions of other popular (i.e. familiar and comfortable) instances, CA sure enough transformed into something that JUST LOOKS RIGHT, in step with the style of the times.

Here’s a screenshot that shows a lot going on in the old style:

I mean, it’s not bad, right?

And here it is in the new:

Oh, okay… yeah–that’s way better.

The lion’s share of the work took about 7 full working days, and it was satisfying work wherein the time flew by.  And that brings me back to my wish of having done this a long time ago.  I began this project thinking the current Version 4 aesthetic looked overall just fine and I sincerely didn’t know what those occasional outspoken critics were talking about.

NOW I get it.  As I worked, toggling back and forth between the current and new versions, my eyes quickly adjusted to the new.  By that adjustment, the old indeed now appears to me as… well let’s just say far less than it could be.

Seeing quite clearly now thanks to the comparison point that the new affords me, I humbly apologize to all of the coaches and to all of their clients that I wasn’t quicker on the uptake on this front.  I truly hope this new design will be a very welcome sight for all, and for a good long time.

Dark Mode

I’m told it’s very popular.  And I can see why!  To take this all one step further I did a little extra work and cooked up a dark mode of CoachAccountable’s very own:

Ooh, pretty! I can see what all the fuss is about.

You can quickly toggle in and out of dark mode by typing Alt+Shift+D whenever your cursor is NOT in some input.  This is hard to do on a mobile device, so you can also set your preference under My Account >> User Profile:

Setting this here makes it your default across all devices, and the Shift-D trick overrides it on a given device.

 

The new look in feel is now in place for all accounts, including for your clients.  It’s a sweeping change but everything is still in its usual place, so you should feel right at home.

Small aside: for just a little while you yourself can appreciate the same refreshing contrast by toggling between the version back and forth between the old and the new.  Just type Shift-4 when not focused on an input.  If you’re like me, you’ll find it neat to see what got changed by recalling how it used to look.  It’s a fun way to mark being along on the journey of CoachAccountable’s evolution, and I’m glad to have you here for it.

I hope you and your clients enjoy the new look.  Here’s to a better CA for all!

Note:
  1. Speaking of the time being right, it was also that week that Morgan did a demo for a group that was then considering platforms as an alternative to running their coaching operations on an Excel spreadsheet, and apparently on that demo a member of THAT group was rather vocal about berating CA’s design.  Well now, I’d say with that the gauntlet had been thrown down.  Who would I be to trip over the low bar set by the aesthetics of your typical Excel spreadsheet!?

Building a Routine Tracking Course

One of the more powerful features of CoachAccountable is its ability to genuinely change behavior and nudge clients into good habits and regular performance.

This all happens through a very simple practice: the routine check-in.

The routine check-in allows clients to report on WHATEVER KPIs, practices, habits, etc. that they’re working on, prompts them to do so on regular basis, and has the accumulated results appear in graphs that reveal the trends and tell the story.

By popular request, here’s step-by-step video tutorial on how to create these tracking regiments, complete with full automation that will make is easy for your clients to show up regularly.

Enjoy!

9 Years: Happy Birthday, CoachAccountable

Birthday Cake with a big 9 candle

Easiest switch up from last year’s cake ever: I just changed the 8 to a 9 in a Photoshop text layer.

Goodness me, has it been another year already?  I don’t know about y’all, but this is the longest I’ve ever stayed put at a single job. :)-

As has been the case now 8 times before, I’m again delighted at all that we’ve put out in service of the coaching community during the last 365.

CoachAccountable has progressed on a number of fronts.  Perhaps most popular has been the addition of Course Pages and other course enhancements, which collectively put CoachAccountable Courses very much on the level with popular LMS platforms.

The addition of CoachAccountable Companies enables coaches and coaching organizations to effectively interface with client companies, including company invoices, company-wide engagements, and even allowing company personnel their very own way to log in and keep up to date within CA itself.

The addition of alternate appointment availabilities, schedule nudges, and a other ergonomic enhancements further closed the gap between CA’s Appointment Scheduling and other popular scheduling apps, making it possible for even more folks to drop yet another app.

We added a number of features that enable powerful new ways of interacting with clients, including Client Present Mode to make screensharing during sessions a great idea, and Worksheet Answer Comments to allow easy sharing of laser-focused feedback.

Perhaps most meaningful of all, we mapped out several dimensions of how to be a more powerful coach, including being accountable beyond baseline integrity, how to execute novel ways of wowing prospects into paying clients, and even elevating the pedestrian act of taking session notes to an art form.

These are novel dimensions that are not really taught in typical coach trainings, and we couldn’t be happier to be able to contribute to the delight that your clients’ experience of working with you, and do so in ways that go beyond the conversations themselves.

Speaking of going beyond conversations, one other big thing that got shipped during CoachAccountable’s 9th year is a completely new 8-email course that folks can sign up for when first getting an account.  It’s titled “Beyond Mere Conversations: The Magic of a Platform Supporting Your Coaching”.

It really kinda all falls under these umbrellas, doesn’t it?

This replaces the old course, “Coaching with Software: How to use Technology for Superior Results”, which I originally wrote over about 3 days in the Euro Cafe in Granada, Nicaragua back in October, 2012.  That one held up well, but in the intervening years it would be fair to say that CoachAccountable has gotten much more advanced.  So a new telling of the story of what CA brings and how to use it is very much in order.

All told, doing our thing in service of the coaching community remains very much a labor of love.  In spite of whatever chaos has been unfolding amid world events, Morgan, Jaclyn and I agree that there’s always a sort of calm respite in creating good in our little corner of the world; and we are honored to serve the vital, world-changing work that you all do.

Here’s to another year!

 

Scheduled Messages to Clients

Here’s a neat little trick that can add an extra bit of supportive presence for your clients when you’re not around.

CoachAccountable has long allowed you to send out a quick email to your client, allowing you to keep a record of the correspondence as well as just plain being handy.

You can now send a message to your client in the exact same way BUT have it actually be sent out at whatever future date and time you like.  Compose now, schedule delivery for later.

Let’s see how it works!

Setting up Scheduled Messages for your Clients

To set up a scheduled message for your client, you start in the usual way by clicking the little email icon next to their head shot on their Client Page:

UI with the email client button

This brings up the message composing window like usual, but notice at the bottom there’s a “Send later…” button.  Clicking it reveals the controls to choose when you’d like your message to be sent:

UI for composing a client message to be sent later

This time defaults to an hour in the future, but you’ll probably want to set it to something a little more deliberate.

Whenever you’ve got one or more messages that are scheduled to be sent to your client, you’ll notice the email button gains a little extra button:

Client Message adder button with an extra icon

You’ll know at a glance when you’ve got a message scheduled to go out.

Clicking this little icon reveals whatever messages you have scheduled that are yet to go out:

Listing of scheduled messages

You can tee up as many messages as you like, but this should generally be a pretty short list.

You can cancel out any scheduled messages here simply by clicking the trash icon, that deletes it fully.

If you want to view (and perhaps modify) the contents of a message you’ve got scheduled, simply click the edit icon.  Doing so brings up the full compose window once again, wherein you can even revise decisions to CC yourself (or not) and add to the client’s Stream (or not):

Editing interface for an already scheduled message

Want the message to be sent immediately? Just change the sending date & time to anything that’s now or earlier.

Scheduled messages that you have set to CC yourself will arrive in your inbox at the same time your client receives it.

And that’s all there’s to it!  Scheduling message to clients allows you to very easily share with your client a thoughtful communication (be it bit of wisdom, encouragement, a reminder, or something else), and have them get it when it can be most useful and timely.

Enjoy!

Coach Actions

When it comes to tracking who’s doing what and when, CoachAccountable is by and large concerned with the doings of the clients, and making it as easy as possible for coach to support those doings.

So when action plans are made (more often, co-created by coach and client in the course of a session), those plans are generally meant for the client to execute.

And yet, it is not uncommon for coach to undertake certain tasks in service of her clients.  Effectively, these tasks are promises made to fulfill her end of the working relationship.

To support that, CoachAccountable now allows coaches to create Action items that are designated for coach to do, rather than client.  In other words, Coach Actions enter the mix along side the more conventional Client Actions.

Let’s see how they work!

Using Coach Actions

First things first: there is to enable Coach Actions.  They are not on by default, as there’s no need to add any UI clutter for those coaches who don’t plan to use them.

To enable Coach Actions, simply visit Settings >> System >> Coach Actions.  There you will be greeted by the simplest, most sparse in-app page that CoachAccountable has to offer:

Configuration screen for coach actions

Just a few clicks and you’ll have these enabled. If you’re into ’em.

Simply flip the switch, and decide for yourself whether or not you’d like a Coach Actions section added to your home page.  Click the “Save Settings” button and you’re set.

Once enabled, you’ll find a little bit of extra UI when creating an Action from a Client Page.  To the right there’s a little note that says “This is for so-and-so to do”, along with a “change” link.  Clicking the change link toggles the Action as being for you or your client, like so:

UI controls for toggling who the Action is for

Note the paring down when the Action is for you: no project, no comments, no notifications to client.  Keepin’ it simple.

Like more conventional Actions for your clients, Coach Actions are meant to help you keep on top of those things you need to get done for your clients, so the usual “this is now late” alerts and ability to set reminders apply.  Naturally, reminders you set for these will only be for you as coach, never your client.

When you have one or more Actions that are designated for you to do, the client’s Current Actions area contains those in a separate section plus appropriate labeling to make it clear who’s responsible for what:

A listing of client actions broken into 2 sections, for coach and for client

Now we’re clear.

As you might expect, these Coach Actions are completely invisible to your clients, and similarly hide themselves automatically when you switch in to Client Present Mode:

Listing of Client Actions wherein Coach Actions are hidden

Coach Actions are fully hidden from clients.

Provided you’ve opted to have them show there, you can see (and create) Coach Actions from your home page for all of your clients:

The coach's home page with the Actions tab showing all Coach Actions

Fun fact: you can click on the avatar of a given client to jump to their Client Page.

Other Considerations

By design, completed or canceled Coach Actions do NOT live in the Past tab for clients: they are are meant to be more transient, so there’s no need clutter the record of your client’s accomplishment.  But rest assured that you can still see all of your past Coach Actions on your home page >> Actions >> Past tab.

All Coach Actions are meant to be associated with a specific client.  These are not meant as a generic to-do list, but instead as a tool crafted specifically to empower you to make good on promises that pertain to your clients.  If you want to make Coach Actions that don’t actually pertain to any of your clients, the simplest way is to simply associate them with your freebie client.

In addition to standard reminders you might set for individual Coach Action items, CoachAccountable will lovingly include a reminder about any unfinished Actions you might have for a client in the lead up to an Appointment you have with them, done as a simple addendum to any notification emails you have set, like so:

An appointment reminder email for coach containing a reminder of outstanding actions

Ah, right! Egg on my face were I to leave those undone going into our next session…

And that’s it!  Coach Actions are really all about you showing up powerfully for your clients: armed with a tool that takes the guess work out of what to do, for whom, and by when, AND taking forgetting off the table, you’re able to make promises to your clients with confidence, and follow through like a seasoned professional every time.

Worksheet Answer Comments

This one’s about what you’d expect from its 3-word name: it’s the ability to post comments on individual answers as entered for individual questions within a Worksheet assignment.  This is distinct from (and in addition to) being able to post a comment on an entire Worksheet in the usual way, and so at first glance may seem superfluous.

No one that I know of has actually asked for this feature, yet it’s one that I’m really excited to release.

Why should that be?

The power of this feature is subtle, and therefore easy to miss.  Yet when you understand what it makes possible for you as coach, one who’s offering a premium, high-touch experience, you might wonder how you ever got by without it.

Allow me to explain such a tall claim.

Three years ago I was in a fitness and weight loss coaching program for about 5 months (it was My Body Tutor, if you’re curious).  IT WORKED.  I started the program at 210lbs, and weighed in at 182 when I called it, back to the trim figure I enjoyed as a twenty-something and a thoroughly satisfied customer.

Two-and-a-half years later I consistently weigh in around 183, give or take a pound.  So for those of you keeping score, in that program I lost 28 pounds, and after all this time have gained back 1.  It is fair to say my results were both profound and lasting.

Here’s the point of my sharing this:

The magic of the program lied in the daily check-in: a form that us participants filled out every day to document meals, any snacking, exercise, and mindset.  Maybe a few other things, but that was the gist.

The super-duper magic of the program was that your coach would, EVERY DAY, post comments on every bit of that check-in form, even (especially?) those parts you left blank.

Make some great food choices?  You’d soon see written positive feedback congratulating you for it.  Didn’t so much as get in a 5 minute walk?  Coach would read as much, and the comment he made ensured that you knew that HE knew.

Coach was in your world, giving specific guidance on all the specific bits you were reporting.  After a week or so, you KNEW that if you filled in “pop tart” for that breakfast question you were gonna hear about it the next day, and because of it, the chump-looking-like-aversion (that we are all blessed/cursed with) would quickly be in your corner to help you NOT make such obvious missteps.

The daily feedback loop ritual, so long as you kept on track to participate in it, was a veritable good habits factory.

That tight feedback loop was enabled by coach being able to easily and effortlessly give you focused feedback on every little component.  Coach didn’t have to compose lengthy missives to cover the whole thing, wherein half the keystrokes were prefacing what she was talking about (“Okay, so for your breakfast what I see is…”).  It was just on-point feedback on everything, where what she was talking about was obvious from context.  The whole scheme of commenting on individual answers took the cognitive load of both writing and reading way down.

Voila, the case for being able to comment on each answer within a Worksheet.

And now you can in CoachAccountable.  Let’s see how it works!

Adding Comments to Worksheet Answers

When you’re looking at a Worksheet (as found in the Completed tab of your client’s Worksheets area), you’ll now see a new “Comment on answers…” button at the bottom, like so:

Button to comment on answers

It may not be catchy, but it is clear!

(Note that this button ONLY appears for Form-Based Worksheets: it won’t appear for a freestyle, WYSIWYG Worksheet, because those aren’t structured as having individual answers on which you could comment.)

Clicking this button unceremoniously does… nothing, save for cause the button disappear.  Or so it seems!  Rest assured it’s not broken.  Instead what you’ve done is toggle into commenting on answers mode.  What that means is that by hovering your mouse over ANY answer reveals a “Comment…” hover effect, putting you one click away from being able to comment on whichever answer you click:

Hover and Click to comment

Just hover and click, and you’re ready to type.

Once you click “Add comment”, your comment appears right where you might expect: immediately below the answer:

Posted answer comment

Indeed, they’re quite popular.

You can post comments to any or all of the answers in the Worksheet, and add multiple comments on a single answer.

When in answer commenting mode, you’ll also note that by hovering over a comment you made previously you’ll see a trash can by which to delete it:

Deleting an answer comment

Because you can always second thoughts, or want a redo.

Make a typo or want to reword something?  Just delete and re-add (there’s no edit button… let’s not make things too complicated here!).

And that’s all there is to it: that’s how commenting works once you’re in-app, looking at the Worksheet in order to do it.  Comments are written directly into the Worksheet, and so they appear in the exact same way when that Worksheet is viewed in other ways (like from the Stream, in a Client Export, and so on).

To make it super simple for you to get in to add those comments, there’s a new magic link that will appear in the notification emails you get when your client completes a Worksheet:

Link that appears in an email to let you go comment on answers

View it online? Or do something a little more?

Clicking on that “Comment on answers…” link takes you right to your client’s page (once you’re logged in, of course), brings the Worksheet up front and center, and automatically toggles you into commenting on answers mode.  You’re able to get in and out QUICK, with the only brain power you need to exert carefully preserved for making those insightful comments.

Delightful!

Sharing Comments With Your Clients

Comments posted in this manner are a LITTLE different than ones you can post on any Stream Item.  Those comments are standalone communications, suitable for emailing off to your client the second you post them (assuming that’s the notification setting your client has opted for).

These answer comments, by contrast, are meant to be done (and taken in) as a series: if it’s a Worksheet with 10 questions (or even 2) that merit some form of targeted feedback, it would be inappropriate to whisk each one off as a separate email.  Lacking the context of the answer you’re commenting on it would be confusing, too.

BUT whatever comments you make on your client’s answers you’ll DEFINITELY want to share with them, and the system has you covered to quickly do that in precisely two clicks.

When you post the first comment on your client’s answers, you’ll notice the little email icon in the bottom row lights up, like so:

Emailing comment lit up

“Oooh, shiny!” In this instance, that instinct will serve you WELL.

This is a little prompting reminder that means to communicate “Hey, you’ve added one or more comments; you should probably (ahem, kinda definitely) email these off to your client when you’re done!”

Click it, and the usual dialog to email the Worksheet off to your client appears…

Worksheet emailer dialog

That’s a nice little note that plainly says what’s going on.

…but with one handy twist: a suitable personal note automatically appears in this special case of emailing your client answer comments.  You can customize this however you like.  The system will remember it for the next time, and smart [clientFirstName] insertion happens automatically for whichever client you’re sending to.

Send it off, and your client sees your little note AND your comments all in one handy email:

Laser focused guidance delivered direct to your client’s inbox, all requiring minimal effort on your part.

A Two-Way Dialog of Commentary

Your clients can ALSO post comments on answers… but ONLY if you start it.  Meaning when your client views a Worksheet in their Completed Worksheets area, they too will see the “Comment on answers…” button IF there already exists one or more answer comments on that Worksheet.

This is nice in that your client won’t get distracted by that button if it’s really not relevant to your workflow (or even only not relevant to a specific Worksheet).  The same rules apply for them to notify you: they too will see the email icon light up if they comment, and they too must make those two clicks to email those comments to you.

So if you plan to have them in on the commenting dialog, let them know they need to actually send ’em your way, or they’re as good as unmade as far as you’re concerned. :)

Dialog of comments on an answer

Preach, sister.

Incorporating Answer Comments into Your Style

Like I said at the top, providing comments on your client’s answers is a very high-touch way of giving on-point and nuanced feedback.  It can be a tremendously valuable gift you give your clients as part of their experience of working with you (trust me, I know!), and can have profound effects by shaping and reinforcing good habits.

It is also thoroughly optional, it won’t be fitting for some types of Worksheet, and certainly needn’t be done all the time or for every answer.

So how you design your Worksheets and how you tailor your promises to regularly comment (or not comment) is yet another creative avenue by which you’re able to design a powerful and compelling coaching experience, one that meets clients where they’re at and what they’re up for1.  You could, for example, offer a top-tier plan wherein your promise is to give detailed feedback on progress daily, and then lower plans wherein they get that service at less frequent intervals.

It’s up to you, and I hope with this new capability you’ll find creative joy in tinkering with what might become a cherished part of the value you provide, all to your clients’ benefit.

Enjoy!

Note:
  1. See our Designing your Coaching Business Model webinar for more on this topic.

Better Courses

Since the release of Course Pages a few months back, we’ve introduced a few enhancements to for how those work, and to Courses more broadly.  Let’s see what’s new!

Course Page Menu Sub-Menus

This is a bit of a mouth full, but nevertheless a welcome addition which jibes nicely with what folks expect in a Course display.

Course Pages are broken into Sections.  When designing those Sections, one can make an ordered sequence of whatever items one desires: Actions, Worksheets, Files and more make up the building blocks of a section.

The entire course is navigable by those sections in the Course Page left menu.  With the addition of sub-menus, you and your clients can now view (and navigate to) individual items within those Sections.

Course Page Sub Menus

Even if not clickable yet, these menus give your clients a sense for the road ahead (if you allow it!).

This is especially nice when you opt for the “Participants can see complete timeline” visibility setting, as it means now clients are welcome to see a summary of the road ahead, even for portions of the course not yet released.

Course Progress Meters

You can now opt to have the system display a progress bar for their course, giving them an at-a-glance sense for how much progress they’ve made so far relative to the complete course.

Course Page Progress Meters

As seen on the Course Page’s side menu, these progress meters update themselves in real time as your clients make progress.

You’ll find the place to turn progress meters on in the Basics area:

Enabling Progress Meters

The Basics section of the Course editor is where you can turn progress meters on.

Once enabled, the Course Builder will accordingly let you set weights for each of the complete-able types of items, i.e. Actions, Worksheets and Files:

Setting a Course Item's progress weights

Indicate how significant the completion of a given item is by setting its weight.

The weights tell CA how much of the progress meter should show as being full when a complete-able item gets completed, and the result is now that you and your clients have an accurate gauge of how for they’ve progressed.

Course Page Position Persistence

When your clients are working through a Course as laid out in Course Pages, they might close the browser or otherwise navigate away.  Their exact position, including which Section they were in and how far down the page they were scrolled, is now remembered and instantly recalled whenever your client revisits the course page, making it easy to pick up from exactly where they left off.

Remixed Course Participant Details

The Courses area for a Client or Group now has a much more streamlined display, making more prominent the spiffy course thumbnails you can set, and more obvious targets to just click on the card in order to visit the Course Page (when applicable).  The progress meter appears in these cards (when enabled), as does a radial chart showing how far they’ve progressed (as measured in Days or Steps).

Course Participant Cards

Click anywhere in the card to jump to the Course Page (when applicable) and hover to reveal other controls.

The full summary of how many items have dispatched appears now as its own pop up upon clicking the magnifying glass icon.  This summary display is now also available from the coach dashboard >> Courses area, by clicking a magnifying glass icon in the Participants listing for a given course.

Course Participant Details

See exactly where your client is in the sequence of items, and the summary of what’s done and what’s not (including timeliness!).

Course Pause Items for Step-Based Courses

There’s a new type of item you can now add when building your Step-Based Courses, and that is a Pause.

Step-Based courses are, by design, meant to be self-paced.  Clients can blaze through the assignment and materials as fast as they like, where the completion of one item triggers the immediate release whatever is next.

This is in contrast to a Day-Based Course, where items are generally dispatched on a consistent schedule of whatever you set (e.g. at 10:00am on Day 1, give them this, then at 3:42pm on Day 2, give them that, etc.).

With pauses, you can sort of get a hybrid approach: you can define segments of a course that are meant to be worked through at whatever pace your client desires, but then broken up by one or more pause points.

A pause point can be set to only manually resumed.  This is great for when you would like to have a chance to intervene, inspect their progress, or have a conversation, and allowing them to continue on only when you deem fit.

It can also be set to auto resume after some per-determined delay, and optionally resume always on a particular day of the week (e.g. resume this course on the following Monday at 9:00am).

Here’s what all of these controls look like when adding a Pause item to your Step-Based Course:

Course Pause Setup Controls

The “waiting for the next one as needed” for specific day-of-the-week resume rules is a bit of a mouthful, but this all allows you precise control over the flow of things.

A course participation paused in this manner is just like when you as coach manually do the pausing.  Accordingly, you can yourself manually unpause (or schedule a different auto-unpause day), whenever you like in the usual way, via the Course Participation editor.


And there you have it!

With these upgrades CoachAccountable Courses are now even more on parity with many popular LMS platforms out there, with their uniquely interactive bits tailored just for coaching to boot!  Big thanks to the several coaches whose feedback contributed to this bevvy of improvements.  Enjoy!