Don’t mix coaching and accountability

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Don’t mix coaching and accountability

Today’s blogger is John Barrett, Principal and co-founder of Humanergy.

Sue is preparing for her monthly meeting with Sam, one of her direct reports. She has some concerns about his attention to detail and the status of a couple of his projects. A critical question Sue is asking herself is, “How should I handle this? Should this be a coaching conversation, focused on accountability or some combination of both?”

Accountability discussions and coaching are not the same. Nor should they be mixed together. To do so dilutes and potentially confuses the critical messages that the employee needs to hear.

Accountability compares performance against expectations, and there are consequences to either sub-par or exceptional performance. Direct reports must know what is expected of them and what will predictably happen based on their efforts and results.

Coaching is another animal altogether. It’s the partnership with a direct report to support and challenge the development of new thinking and behaviors. Critical coaching messages pertain to the employee’s goals, results they want/need and the critical competencies they are working to develop. The boss’s job when coaching is to ask great questions, provide insight only when needed and help the employee remove any barriers to change and growth.

Having both accountability and coaching conversations are critical for high performance. In fact, doing both will magnify the impact of each type of discussion. Just avoid the confusion and lack of clarity that ensue when doing them at the same time.

Have a great idea for promoting accountability and development of new capabilities? Comment below or message us.


Photo by Jorik Blom on Unsplash

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Comments (2)

  1. Good afternoon, John.
    After reading your blog, I am wondering if our Quarterly One-on-One Conversations, which each team member has with their team lead three times per year, combines coaching with accountability. Our quarterlies come from our EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), our business model. At the quarterly both the team lead and the team member bring our thoughts to the meeting for these five topics: 1. Review accomplishments, 2. Struggles/ Issues (bring potential solutions/ suggestions), 3. What are things you want to work on to improve yourself?, 4. How would you rate yourself on a People Analyzer (this is our performance review scorecard), and 5. What can I do better as your lead? With this very brief summary, are you able to give me any feedback as to whether you think this is a combination of coaching and accountability?

    Thank you!

  2. Hello John-

    Great read! Agree 100%, mixing these two leadership methodologies creates less than affective results.


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