How Do You Hold Others Accountable?

Article | Accountability Insights

by | Apr 24, 2015

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, 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.”

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