Accountability Expands Choice and Creates Risk. Is that a problem?

Accountability Expands Choice and Creates Risk. Is that a problem?

Empowerment is the converse of compliance. Its purpose is increasing options rather than limiting them.

Whereas compliance holds people accountable for following the rules, empowerment makes them accountable for their choices.

The more empowered employees are, the more accountable they feel to deliver their results. The more accountable they feel, the more inclined they are to create options and choices for themselves to deliver on their accountability.

More choices increase the probability of poor decision making and accordingly, risk. It’s a numbers game.

However, we don’t employ people to tell them what to do (all the time) and constrain their ideas with choking compliance. We employ them to figure out what what important things need to be done and then to do it.  That’s the theory if we are ‘doing it right’.

We can’t empower people without there being a risk, the same as we can’t delegate without there being a risk. (Sometimes, in moments of astounding self honesty we realise the risk is to us.   They might do a better job than us and then we have to make a choice in how we get on the skinny branches and do bigger work – now we have had our work comfort blanket taken away.)

Empowerment is risk inherent in its nature and purpose.


Don’t be surprised when you ‘grant’ empowerment and someone takes a different course to what you used to do, a riskier path no less.

Work out where you want compliance (rules of the game) and where you want accountability (optioneering). Horses for courses. Make it clear in the job role – mostly its not.

Delegate accountability for results by delegating the outcome not the method.

Interrogate areas where we have stated previously that we wanted compliance but now we find ourselves in a shifting landscape. (We used to want everyone to turn up at the office to work as part of their contract – now, they can deliver from anywhere).

Accountability is freedom. Make sure staff know that with freedom comes responsibility. (Good citizenship personified)

Image by Geraint Otis Warlow

Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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