By Craig Hickman (@HickmanCraig), Author, Futurist and Senior Vice President of New Product Development, Partners In Leadership
Partners in Leadership conducted a Workplace Accountability Study on how leaders hold others accountable and found that most people reflect a natural preference for one of two different sides of a continuum. The continuum describes the extremes of the two styles that we tend to see: "Coerce & Compel" on one extreme and "Wait & See" on the other.
Style One: Coerce & Compel
Managers who hold employees accountable through a Coerce & Compel method have high expectations, need constant reporting, and they follow up constantly.
Employees managed by the extreme managers might feel intimidated by a boss who tends to "force" things to happen, or they may view him or her as a micromanager who doesn't trust their opinion. Not good. Managers on this extreme exhaust their employees, proving the often-said adage that people leave managers, not companies.
But, there are some productivity advantages to this style: not giving up easily, communicating expectations, and staying focused on the task at hand.
Style Two: Wait & See
This manager is much more trusting, allowing ample freedom for employees to succeed or fail and intervening only when it's necessary. However, because these managers tend to shy away from intervention, they set low expectations and can strike people as disengaged. At worst, their hands-off approach might impede the team's productivity by not intervening at a critical junction. Worse yet is when they are baffled that things went wrong just because they were at the extreme of this style.
Wait & See has advantages. Managers that strongly support people and build strong loyalty and support in others. Knowing when to intervene, and only allowing failure when it doesn't hurt the business or the employee's reputation moves a manager from the extreme and more toward a healthy compel employee strategy. Our study showed that 64% of managers across industries identified as a Wait & See manager.
Hybrid Style: The Positive, Principled Way of Holding Others Accountable
There are clear strengths and weaknesses to both leadership styles. Most managers learn through experience when to use the best of both styles when needed. Harnessing the advantages and avoiding the disadvantages of both styles is how leaders hold others accountable the positive, principled way.
Interestingly, 43% of our survey respondents said the people responsible for holding them accountable borrowed more or less equally from both models--a step in the right direction for leaders who know what style they lean towards and conscientiously make adjustments to harness the positive attributes of each.
Remember, too, that each person you interact with is different, and an employee might respond more positively to one style than to another. Some people flourish under pressure and even fall behind if given too much flexibility and freedom. Others need plenty of space to access their ideas and creativity, losing focus with every interruption. In short, every employee is different, and your accountability style should take into consideration the needs and personalities of each person on your team.
What's Your Leadership Style?
The first step to holding others accountable the positive, principled way is to acknowledge and understand your accountability style. Take the Leadership Accountability Style Quiz to find out where you fall on the spectrum. And be sure to ask your colleagues, peers, and employees. Ask for feedback about your leadership style and what works or doesn't work about the way you hold others accountable.
Regardless of where you naturally fall on the continuum, harness the strengths of both styles and you'll be well on your way to creating a culture of accountability in your workplace.