During a recent workshop with a large engineering and construction firm, we witnessed the following interchange:
Person A: “You can’t hold people accountable that way; it doesn’t work.”
Person B: “Of course it works. I’ve been doing it for twenty-five years and getting good results.”
Person A: “There’s also a lot of turnover on your team.”
Person B: “That’s the nature of our business.”
That’s when we entered the conversation: “On the Accountability Styles continuum, most of us lean to one extreme or the other, making the classic mistakes of either forcing things to happen (Coerce & Compel) or taking too little action and failing to follow up (Wait & See).” Then we discussed with them the strengths and weakness of each extreme.
The Coerce & Compel style has many strengths, such as taking action and stepping in when things go wrong, exercising persistence in follow-up, not giving up easily, ensuring frequent and regular reporting, communicating high expectations, and staying focused on the task at hand. There are also weakness associated with this extreme; for example, some of these include intimidating others, overreacting to bad news, tending to force things to happen, willingly sacrificing relationships, resisting a people-oriented approach, and lacking sufficient trust in others.
The Wait & See style has a number of strengths too, namely strongly supporting people, giving people the freedom to succeed or fail, placing a lot of trust in others, stepping in with great caution, building strong loyalty and support in others, and thoroughly thinking through intervention before acting. The weaknesses of this extreme include avoiding a proactive approach, striking people as disengaged, making false assumptions that things are happening, not following up often enough, erring on the side of not intervening, and setting low expectations.
Either extreme on the continuum weakens your ability to hold others accountable. Acknowledging and understanding your Accountability Style can help place you at a more optimal point on the continuum. We call this point the “Positive, Principled Way” and consider it to be a perfect blend of strengths from both Accountability Styles, which, of course, mitigates the weaknesses of each extreme.
To learn more about avoiding the extremes of the Coerce & Compel or Wait & See Accountability Styles, we invite you to join the Accountability Community at www.partnersinleadership.com, where you can review actual client case studies and assess your current Accountability Style more accurately.
Sign up for one of our upcoming webinars to learn how to hold others accountable the “Positive, Principled Way.”
Accountability Styles and Accountability Community are registered trademarks of Partners In Leadership, Inc. All other registered trademarks and trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.
A middle manager with a large consumer products company took his direct reports through an Accountability Training and Executive Coaching process. During an Executive Coaching session a few weeks after starting the process, the manager admitted that he was allowing “pressing circumstances” to distract him. He wasn’t modeling Focused Feedback or Solve It behavior when it came to his own professional training and career development. He resolved, once again, to take accountability for his development and asked his direct reports to do the same. This time he modeled the behavior and attitude he wanted to see in his direct reports. After a few months, he and his team had moved to a whole new level of development and performance. The leader described the transformation this way: “Once I decided that seeking feedback, taking accountability for my development, and coaching others had to become an integral part of my daily leadership, I began seeing real movement in the team. It made me realize that I had to become the change I wanted to see in my team. Not only did I become a better leader in the process, but everyone on the team also became better—they actually started taking greater accountability for their own development.” Today, every member of the team has moved on to positions of greater responsibility and leadership.
Many people in organizations today feel limited in their ability to exercise real power or meaningful control over their own professional training and career development, so they react to circumstances instead of creating their own futures. Just as the foregoing story illustrates, one manager can turn things around for himself and his team by taking accountability for his own personal development and holding others accountable in a positive, principled way to do the same.
The first step to helping others take accountability for their development is to make sure you are modeling and practicing the powerful principles of ownership and accountability relative to your own development. To learn more about taking accountability for your development and holding others accountable in a positive and principled way to do the same, we invite you to join the Accountability Community at www.partnersinleadership.com, where you can review actual client case studies.
Sign up for one of our upcoming webinars to learn how to better take accountability for yours and your team’s development.
Accountability Training, Focused Feedback, and Solve It are registered trademarks of Partners In Leadership, Inc. All other registered trademarks and trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.
How do you help an associate or other colleague take greater accountability? How do you help them when they get stuck Below The Line on an issue or problem, situation or relationship, without offending them or coming across as self-righteous?
We suggest you begin by asking this simple, yet focused, non-threatening question: “Why aren’t you making the progress (or improvement) you really want to make on this issue?” An alternative question would be “Why aren’t you achieving the benefits (or growth) you really want to achieve in this situation? Listen for their perceived obstacles, stumbling blocks, barriers, and impediments. Encourage them to talk openly and honestly about how they perceive their circumstances. You may need to further enable them by asking: “What else is getting in the way of your making improvement or achieving growth?” When they have had sufficient opportunity to identify and describe their perceived obstacles or barriers, ask one of the following questions: (1) “Which of these obstacles do you most need to overcome, and why?” (2) “What will happen if you don’t try to address and resolve these obstacles?” or (3) “If your life depended on it, what else could you do to address at least one of these obstacles?”
Allow the conversation to flow naturally into a discussion of solutions (this may require multiple conversations). Remember, you’re trying to help them take ownership for at least one of their perceived obstacles, so they can start sincerely asking the question: “What else can I do to influence the obstacles and barriers that are hindering my progress (resolution of an issue or problem; improvement in the situation or relationship). Be patient but persistent. You can offer assistance, as appropriate and feasible, but don’t try to resolve things for them. Of course, you should plan to follow-up to see whether they are moving Above The Line and taking results-oriented actions.
To learn more about helping others to take greater accountability and ownership, we invite you to join the Accountability Community at www.partnersinleadership.com, where you can review actual client case studies.
Sign up for one of our upcoming webinars to learn how to better coach accountability in your team and organization.
Below The Line, Above The Line, and Accountability Community are registered trademarks of Partners In Leadership, Inc. All other registered trademarks and trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.