Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

The Coaching and Accountability Matrix

Today Tim and Junior will be discussing coaching and accountability. These are two of the most important tactical levers a leader has and they always go together. If we do these things well, we’ll be able to effectively transfer two things to our people: 1) Critical thinking and 2) Ownership. In this conversation, Tim and Junior will reference the coaching and accountability matrix created by Dr. Clark which we have included below.

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Episode Show Notes

Today Tim and Junior will be discussing coaching and accountability. These are two of the most important tactical levers a leader has and they always go together. If we do these things well, we’ll be able to effectively transfer two things to our people: 1) Critical thinking and 2) Ownership. In this conversation, Tim and Junior will reference the coaching and accountability matrix created by Dr. Clark which we have included below.

(01:52) Coaching and accountability are connected. "You can't really separate them. They don't come apart. If you think about what coaching is, coaching is really about a cycle of delegation and then holding someone accountable through the process and then coming back and reporting. It's about that ongoing journey. So coaching cannot be separated from accountability."

(09:41) The pattern of our communication will dictate the quality of our coaching. What is your ask to tell ratio? "What's your pattern of communication? Are you telling people what to do all the time? Are you asking questions? What is your ratio?

(17:55) What are the three levels of accountability and how do they play into our coaching conversations? What level of accountability do the highest performers operate at? When we are coaching, can we help others move up to higher levels of accountability?

(28:12) Introducing the coaching and accountability matrix. This diagram serves as a powerful diagnostic tool for leaders, coaches, and managers. Whatever the position, stewards can look at the people for whom they have responsibility and assess their mode of performance based on the two dimensions: coaching and accountability.

(39:09) Where do you fit on the coaching and accountability matrix? What level of accountability do you operate at? Use this matrix not only in your coaching situations but as a measure of your own performance.

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Coaching and Accountability Matrix

Episode Transcript


0:00:00.0 Freddy: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. In today's episode, we're going to talk about coaching and accountability. Coaching and accountability are two of the most important tactical levers a leader has. In today's episode, you'll be introduced to the coaching and accountability matrix. And if you'd like to have a visual reference as you listen to this episode, as you refer back to this episode, you'll find it in today's show notes at But before you go, I wanted to let you know about a new opportunity, a new way to engage with the four stages of psychological safety content. We've just announced two upcoming public workshop dates. This is a live virtual half day session focused on discovery-based learning. If you'd like the opportunity to go deeper into psychological safety and improve your relationships at work and in life, this is a great experience that we previously have not offered publicly in this way. You can learn more at Thanks again for listening and enjoy today's episode on coaching and accountability.


0:01:15.8 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture By Design. My name's Junior. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today we'll be discussing coaching and accountability. Tim, how you doing? 

0:01:25.3 Tim: Doing great. Good to be with you for this episode.

0:01:28.2 Junior: I'm excited about today's conversation. It's got my juices flowing. I've been thinking a lot about these topics as we've been kind of discussing the outline and putting our approach together. I think it's gonna be a valuable episode. So today we're going to discuss arguably two of the most important tactical levers that a leader has, coaching and accountability. So Tim, tell us about the relationship between these two things. Why are we talking about them today? 

0:01:52.0 Tim: Well, they go together. You can't really separate them. They don't come apart. If you think about what coaching is, coaching is really about a cycle of delegation and then holding someone accountable through the process and then coming back and reporting. It's about that journey that's ongoing. So coaching cannot be separated from accountability. They go together always. We don't always talk about them together, but accountability is embedded within the coaching process.

0:02:29.0 Junior: Over the years, we've done a lot of training for a lot of organizations along these lines, and I have seen many people come back and say that the topics that we're going to discuss today have been the most valuable that they've ever been exposed to as far as some of the blocking and tackling of management. These are things that most people don't do well. They may seem straightforward, but if you look at the average leader, they're often deficient in these two things. So, if we're able to do these two things well, we're going to be able to transfer two things to our people and do so very effectively. The first is critical thinking, which we'll talk about, and the second is ownership. So, that's the intended outcome of today's conversation, is to equip all of us with some tools, with some understanding, and then to ask some questions about what we might need to go and do to transfer those two things to our people. Critical thinking and ownership, if we can do those two things, it's very unlikely that we will be unsuccessful leaders.

0:03:29.0 Tim: Before we move on, I wanna come back to what you said. Many leaders don't do this well. They're not great coaches. Why is that? Because coaching, it's a combination of skill and will, and the skill part of it is a learnable skill. You can get better through practice over time if you're really focusing on it and you're really trying. And then the will side, there's a moral courage that's part of coaching as well. So you have to be willing to exercise that moral courage. So the skill and the will come together in the coaching competency, and it draws from both sides. And it's always been that way, it always will be that way. And so we're gonna break that down today in this discussion, and hopefully, hopefully this discussion will shake loose some insights for our listeners because, many of you out there are coaches and so hopefully you'll understand coaching better. We'll give you some tips and some guidance to become even better coaches.

0:04:34.1 Junior: It's probably also reasonable to recognize that you're not bestowed with talent in coaching and skill in coaching simply because you've become a leader, simply because you're in a managerial role. This is something that takes a lot of attention. You have to be very intentional about it. So, what is coaching? Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell said that coaching's the single most important part of expanding another's capability. So, it's outward facing. What is it? It's training, it's instructing, tutoring, educating, advising, encouraging, upskilling, guiding. It's all of those things, and you're helping other people do it. So Tim, walk us through what Google found as some of the attributes of effective leaders.

0:05:20.2 Tim: Sure.

0:05:20.6 Junior: I think that this was incredibly interesting.

0:05:23.5 Tim: Well, this is a competency model that Google has had for a while now, and it includes nine competencies. And so let's run through those. The first one is, is a good coach. So, that's the first competency. And then there are eight additional competencies that follow this one. But let me just point out from the outset that as we go through the other competencies in the competency model, they all relate back to coaching, interestingly enough. So, here's number two, empowers the team and does not micromanage. So that's the second competency in the model. I do wish... I think there's a gap here. I do wish that they would have included the opposite of micromanaging. So they might have also said is not an absentee landlord which is the opposite failure pattern. So, if you think about coaching, we can fail on both ends, we can fail on micromanagement. Because we're getting in the way, we become the obstacle.

0:06:27.6 Tim: We're holding people back, we're stunting their growth, but we can also fail on the other end where we are an absentee landlord, we're not there and we don't care. We're not actively engaged and involved in the development and the direction and the guidance and the performance of the individual. So, there's micromanagement at one end. There's absentee landlordism, if that's a word at the other, and we're trying to avoid both of those failure patterns. So, that's the second competency in the model. The third one is, expresses interest in and concern for team member success and wellbeing. Well, isn't that a part of coaching? Sure it is. Number four is productive and results-oriented. Is that not part of coaching? Sure, it is because you're modeling the way. So modeling the way is also part of coaching. That's number four. Number five is, is a good communicator, listens and shares information.

0:07:20.3 Tim: Well, that's at the heart of coaching. Six, helps with career development. That's part of coaching too. You're having career development discussions, conversations, touchpoints all along the way. Seven, has a clear vision and strategy for the team. That's part of coaching. You've gotta put a portrait of the future out there, an aspirational vision out there that we can look at and then strive to achieve. That's part of coaching too, to create a definition of the future state that's aspirational that we need to move toward. That's seven. That's number seven. Number eight, has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team. Sure. So, depending on what the team does, depending on the roles that the individuals have, that's going to become part of coaching. If you have no technical skills that are relevant to the role, relevant to the function of the team, that will be a big deficiency. So then the last one is has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team. So again, let's just step back and look at all of this. These are competencies for a good leader. They all directly relate to coaching every single one of those. So, think about that. So coaching is at the heart of being a good manager at any level.

0:08:45.1 Junior: They may have laid this out in another way, which is a good coach as the umbrella competency and broken it out into its component parts. And so number one really does encapsulate the following seven skills. And it's interesting. When you look at the areas across the skills of the manager, they have to be able to communicate. They have career development, they have personal development, they have vision and strategy. And so one of the ways that you could look at this is through the lens that we often describe as technical competence and cultural competence. And so that's another layer to think about this. So is a good coach is at the top. Underneath that you have technical competence, you have cultural competence, and you can break those out. So, I think looking at it through models like this is an effective way to do it. So the next point I wanna make is that coaching is communicating.

0:09:41.2 Junior: I wanna go down this vein for a moment. The pattern of our communication will dictate the quality of our coaching. And so this doesn't encapsulate all of what coaching is, but I think it's a big part of what coaching is. And this is what I've been rolling around in my brain for the last couple of days. So, our patterns of communication will likely fall somewhere on what we call the tell to ask spectrum. And each of us has a ratio. So, by tell to ask, we mean are you telling a lot? Are you asking a lot? What's your pattern of communication? Are you telling people what to do all the time? Are you asking questions? And some of us skew really heavily to the tell side, and we're like 99/1. We're just tell, tell, tell, tell, tell. And some skew really heavily to the ask side, which we often don't talk about, but I was thinking a little bit more. So, if you think about the absentee landlord, I think that they often will ask almost purely because they have no context as to what's actually going on inside the team. And so it's abdication of your role to just ask questions. I don't know what do you think, right? 

0:10:50.4 Tim: Yeah.

0:10:50.9 Junior: Not because I want you to do some of the critical thinking I'm being intentional about, it's because I have no earthly idea what's going on. And I think it's also an acknowledgement sometimes, not always, but it's an acknowledgement of incompetence. If you don't have the technical skill, you're not gonna be telling anyone what to do or that would be even more ignorant, I suppose. But asking without context, without the skill is also really dangerous. And so either side can be pathological. And I wanna just make that point on the frontend because we're going to help us all try to understand that we want to skew to the ask side, but that can be dangerous if we don't have the competence and we don't have the context.

0:11:34.5 Tim: Well, Junior, I would even come back to a fundamental misconception as we think about the tell to ask spectrum, and that is that some people think that as you move to the ask end, you're not coaching anymore. Coaching is about telling. And that's not true at all. If you're asking, you're coaching if you're doing it in an effective way. Not only that, the most effective coaches lean heavily toward the ask end of the spectrum. They do most of their coaching and their most effective coaching at the ask end of the spectrum. So the entire spectrum represents coaching. And of course you need to be able to use the entire spectrum, but it's about using the right part of the spectrum at the right time with the right person based on their needs. That's what it's all about.

0:12:21.1 Junior: That's what takes so much skill, is being able to read the environment and decide what's appropriate. And there are some characteristics of a situation that are as a pattern helpful in educating our response. So, if we have a lot of urgency, we have no time, and let's say that we have low margin for error, which side are we going to lean to? Probably the tell side because we can't afford to make a mistake and we don't have any time. On the other hand, let's say that we are going through what could be, what we think could be a one-way door, and we have some time to make the decision, which end of the spectrum should we lean into? The ask. And so it's incumbent upon each of us to look at the situation, gather all of the facts, and then make an appropriate decision on that spectrum. Tim, what do you think the appropriate ratio might be? If you had to choose, how much time do you think we should be spending on the ask end of the spectrum? 2:1, 3:1, 5:1, 10:1? 

0:13:27.8 Tim: Right. It's difficult to lay out a universal ratio, but I'll bet it's pretty close to something like 4:1. Now, it's cliche, Junior, to say, well, we need to meet people where they are, and that's true. We do need to meet people where they are. If someone is really struggling, doesn't have the skills, needs a lot of direction, needs a lot of guidance, then we do need to be more directive. We're going to shift toward the tell end of the spectrum. But what we're saying is that by and large, overall on balance, the bias needs to be toward the ask end of the spectrum. So as you're developing as a coach overall, assuming that you have a normal distribution of people to coach, over time, we hope that you're shifting toward the ask end of the spectrum, and that you're learning to lead, you're learning to coach through inquiry, through questions more than answers, more than a lot of guidance, more than a lot of direction. Over time, we hope that you're doing that. Hope that makes sense.

0:14:36.4 Junior: It does.

0:14:37.2 Tim: That needs to be the bias, right? 

0:14:40.9 Junior: So to summarize where we've been so far, we've talked about coaching. Coaching's, training, instructing, tutoring, educating, advising, encouraging, upskilling and guiding. That's what we're talking about when we say coaching, and it's one of the first levers that we have as leaders. It's very important. The tool that we're using here is the tell to ask spectrum. So, that's coaching. Now we're going to go into accountability. We'll define it, we'll talk through it, we'll give a tool for that one, and then we'll combine them into the coaching and accountability matrix. So that's kind of the roadmap from here on out. So, what is accountability? It's requiring others to give an account that they are answerable, explainable, liable, and responsible. So this idea of giving an account lies at the heart of being a leader. Isn't that interesting, Tim? 

0:15:29.6 Tim: It is.

0:15:31.9 Junior: The coaching includes the telling and the asking that's on the frontend of whatever it is we're doing, and then the accountability that comes on the other side.

0:15:41.4 Tim: Well, it goes back to the fact that coaching really is a cycle that begins with delegation at the frontend, and then there's accountability thereafter. It's not just accountability at the backend when we finish something, but it's accountability through the process as we make progress. So there's accountability throughout as we're going through, as there's milestones, as there are points of progress along the way. So, accountability lives in in every part of that experience as we... After we delegate, it's accountability from there on out.

0:16:17.9 Junior: It's interesting to think about being a master delegator. You're really good at using the tell to ask spectrum, but then if you're not good on the other side of accountability, all of that frontend work is for. Maybe not all of it, but a large portion. It doesn't matter how well you do the front if you can't hold people accountable at the other side. So let's talk about the three levels of accountability and this is the tool that we're going to use for the accountability section of the conversation. The first level is task, holding people accountable for a task. A task is a single unit of work. It's irreducible, it's nothing that goes on the checklist that the person has to do. And you mentioned at the beginning that people will be at different places. Some people will be brand new to the organization, brand new to the team, brand new to the role, in which case we're going to do a lot more telling.

0:17:20.1 Junior: And in which case, we're going to give them a lot more tasks and they will be accountable more at the task level than the other two that we're going to talk about because they're just getting their feet wet, they're understanding the situation. And it's unreasonable for us to go to that person who's brand new and ask them, right, instead of tell them, "Well, how do you think it should go?" "I don't know. I'm not sure. I just got here." And so if you were to just ask them a question like that and then hold them responsible for something more than a task, a project or an outcome, that'd be a difficult thing to do. So that's task.

0:17:55.0 Tim: I mentioned at the beginning that coaching is a skill that combines the skill and will. Well, the same is also true for the individual who's being coached. And so at task level accountability, they are developing the skill and the will to perform a task on time, on standard and then come back and report. So any performance of a task requires skill on one hand and will on the other. It's very important to understand those two things coming together. And so we start, we always start at the task level because it is the single basic divisible unit of work. We break everything down into tasks and, as you said, that's the irreducible minimum. When we get to the task level, we've hit bedrock. Okay? Can you go perform this task? You need to have the motivation to do it, and you need to have the skill to do it, and then come back and report. Let's talk about it. And then maybe even along the way, there's some guidance and support and direction that are needed, especially if things don't go well, or as well as maybe they should have. So I just wanna point that out that the intersection of skill and will in all of this is crucial.

0:19:16.0 Junior: So the next step is project process. That's the next level of accountability. So a project is multiple tasks strung together with a start and a finish, and a process is multiple task strung together in a loop. And so this is the next stage to which people graduate once they've shown mastery of the prior level, and that's true across all three levels. We have to become masters of the task before we move to the next level of project and process. This is true for you, this is true for your people. If you can't master the task level, you have no business moving to the project level, and this is true in a leadership capacity. If our people don't have a demonstrated track record of performing task level work on time to standard, then we cannot move them to project or process, or we're asking for failure, so it's really important.

0:20:15.0 Junior: And some of that is a skill issue, some of that's a well issue, some of that is just a time in roll issue, where they need context, they need training. And so it's important that we look at all of those considerations and then make the decision. Now we're not gonna go to the person and say, "We're measuring you on task level today." Although there may be an instance where that's appropriate, but it should inform... We should be deliberate about this, and we'll talk a little bit later about plotting our people and where are they on these levels of accountability, but that's the next one. Task then we move to project process. Too many thoughts on project process? 

0:20:53.9 Tim: Yes, I wanna go back and talk about the cultural expectation that should underlie all of this. So in an organization, hopefully the expectation is that we master task level accountability, and then we move on from there. Task level accountability should not be a destination. This is not where we want to pitch our tent, that we want to set up shop and say, "This is how I perform, this is where I perform, and this is the destination." It's not the destination. High-performance organizations cannot operate based on task level accountability. They need people to move on from there, they need people to master that, but they need to move on. So as you say, Junior, they go to project or process accountability.

0:21:42.1 Tim: Let's take a very simple example. Let's take someone that's in accounting and we say, "Okay, we're going to teach you how to follow up with a customer because they owe us money. And so there's an invoice and it's in accounts receivable, and we have not collected it, and it's overdue. So we're going to teach you to follow up with that customer and see if we can get payment because they're late." That's a task, but if we move them to process accountability, we put them in charge of accounts receivable overall, and they learn how to manage that process with all of the customers. That's just a very simple example of graduating from task to process accountability. So again, think about the expectation, the cultural expectation. What's in your DNA as a team and as an organization? Do you expect that people over time should migrate from task to project process accountability? I hope so, because as we move to higher levels of accountability, we move to higher levels of performance, we also move to higher levels of personal development at the individual level.

0:22:58.4 Junior: So I wanna call out that it may be threatening for some leaders to encourage or some organizations to encourage that people move up this ladder. If you as a manager have not yet graduated, if you as a manager do not have the competence necessary to manage the project process level or the outcome level, then you may push people down to the task level and that's part of the micromanagement that we talked about a little bit earlier. And so it's not just your people issue, it's a leader issue. And one of the things that I find most interesting about this is there's an element... There's another variable in this equation that's the frequency of interaction or the necessary frequency of interaction. At the task level, how frequently do you need to follow up? 

0:23:49.6 Junior: And how frequently do you need to see what's going on and coach all the time? Constantly. And so your time is spent doing that. In project process, it's a little bit less. So send the invoice reminder, that's a task. Send all of the outstanding invoice reminders every Monday by 5:00 PM, that's a process that requires a little bit less intervention from you as a leader, which depending on who you are, is a good or a bad thing. If it's a good thing, if you have other things to do that are higher leverage activities, if you haven't found those higher leverage activities, or if you haven't graduated to that next level, then you're gonna be happy to spend your time just micromanaging at the task level. And so you can see a lot about the quality of a leader by where they spend their time as leaders managing. Are they managing at the task level? It could be not the people issue. It could be a them issue. I just wanna call that out.

0:24:50.9 Tim: Well, Junior, you make a very important point. If you continue to manage people at a task level, you are by definition micromanaging, and if you continue to do that over time, there is no leverage in your work, and that's a problem. So think about what that does to the culture and think about the implications for leadership. What you're trying to do as a leader is to become a force multiplier to scale your influence and your impact. You can't do that unless you're able to move people to progressively higher levels of accountability. There's no other way to do that. You've got to be able to incorporate leverage into your role by moving them to higher levels of accountability.

0:25:35.0 Junior: So let's talk about the final level, which is level three outcome accountability. At this level, you're managing through the end state. Instead of saying, send an invoice reminder or send all of the invoice reminders on Monday by 5:00, you're saying, keep accounts receivable as low as possible. And so what does that do to the individual in charge? You have transferred ownership. You own accounts receivable. And two, critical thinking. I'm not telling you how to do it. It's incumbent upon you now to say, "Well, okay, if that's the objective, that's the outcome we're looking for, how do we get that?" And then you give your people autonomy with some guidance, and then you let them go figure it out, and they may say, "Well, we need to change our invoicing terms, and I think that that would help." Or, "Hey, we need to get that invoice out sooner." Or, "Hey, maybe we could automate a little bit of this process." And now what happens to their engagement with the work? It becomes much better, they become much more involved, they get to contribute at a higher level, they get to be creative. And so you think about keeping people at the task level, you're gonna stunt their growth. There's a limit, there's a curb. They're not going to develop and you're not either. The same is true with project and process. Now you gotta work through those stages to get to outcome, but once you're there, man, that's where we wanna be.

0:27:00.4 Tim: Well, if you ask most people, Junior, at what level of accountability would you like to be managed, the vast majority of the human family will say outcome level, please. "Please manage me at outcome level accountability." Why? Why is it naturally attractive? That's just because of all the reasons that you said. That's where you get maximum autonomy and independence and creative license, and that's where you are able to figure things out and do it your own way. Well, that's naturally attractive to human beings.

0:27:30.8 Junior: And if you have someone who says, "No, I'm good. I just wanna stay at the task level." Maybe there's a place for that, but it certainly tells you a little bit about the likely potential and the mindset. And so the next thing that we would mention is as a leader, it's your responsibility to identify where your people are in these three levels of accountability and help them move to the next level, wherever reasonable. If they're at task, how can you move them to project and you can think about this from onboarding too. I like thinking about it this way, How quickly can we put the person into the role and get them to outcome level accountability? And that should inform your onboarding.

0:28:10.2 Tim: That's right.

0:28:12.2 Junior: So that is accountability, requiring others there to be answerable, to be explainable, liable and responsible for all of the work that gets done, and we move them through task, project process and outcome level accountability. But here's the hard thing about those two things, coaching and accountability, the average leader is not a great coach, and the average leader has a really hard time holding people accountable. Now we all have room. I have a ton of room to get better as a coach and to improve my accountability. So what do we do? What do we do after this conversation? We practice the coaching and accountability matrix, which we're going to get into. So there will be a link to this matrix in the show notes. You can pull it up and look at it as we talk today. It might make it a little bit easier to follow along so that you can visualize what's happening, but this is I think one of the most important models in all of management. And this to me reduces so much of the complexity and gives me some actionable things that I can do to get to the next level as a leader and to help my people also go to the next level. So Tim, maybe you could tell us a little bit about the genesis of this tool. Why coaching and accountability in this type of a model? What was it that you were seeing in leaders and organizations that told you, hey, there's a deficiency here, and this is something we might need to spend time on? 

0:29:43.0 Tim: I think it was just the fact that leaders, managers at all levels, they stumble a lot when it comes to coaching and they need help, and the skills of holding people accountable and coaching them based on the tell to ask continuum, those come together because coaching and accountability come together as skills. You can't separate them. And this is so fundamental. This is the basic blocking and tackling of management, and yet it's so difficult for many managers. I think it was that acute need that led us to develop this matrix. It's simple, and yet it really does get to the heart of these skills. I think that's the back story.

0:30:33.3 Junior: So for coaching, we have the tell to ask spectrum. On the model, you'll see that as the x-axis. On 00, we have tell and over on 0X, we have ask as we move to the right of the model, and we've got nine boxes on this model, so a 3 by 3 matrix. Coaching on the bottom, as I mentioned, x-axis. On the y-axis, we have accountability, transfer of ownership, and that's where we have the three levels, task, process, and outcome level. Now, the goal in general, is to move up and to the right. As leaders, we wanna do that individually, and as leaders, we want to do that for our people. So what does this mean? It means that if we're in the bottom left, that we're on the tell ask of the coaching spectrum, and we are at the task level of accountability. So that's box one one. If I move one to the right, I'm moving a little bit more to the ask side of the spectrum, but I'm still at the task level. Box three I'm all the way at ask, but I'm still a task and I need to move back up. So the combination of these two things should inform our behavior. We want to get to ultimate transfer of critical thinking, ultimate transfer of ownership.

0:31:52.1 Junior: And if you do this well, this is something that I've been thinking a lot about as a leader, and something that I've been talking to our team about, you get your time back. If you do this well, you get your time back as a leader, and what I hear as a pattern all the time from managers, "I don't have enough time. I wish I had more time. It's so crazy. It's so busy." If you do this well, you will help ameliorate that issue. You're better leveraged. You have the same inputs. And then this is what I find so fascinating, people's hours is the same, but you get more out of the system because of those two things. They do the majority of the critical thinking, not you, and they're responsible for the outcome, not you. I mean, I guess you are responsible, but at the day-to-day, they're responsible for that outcome.

0:32:41.1 Tim: That's very true, Junior. And this is an incredibly powerful diagnostic tool. So I want you to think about this, if you manage a team, if you have direct reports, you can take this 3 by 3 matrix, this nine box grid, and you can plot every member of your team based on their performance right now. So how do they take accountability? At what level do they take accountability? Task, project process or outcome? So you can plot them. Second question, how are you able to coach them? Do you need to coach them at the tell end or a combination of tell, ask or can you coach them almost exclusively at the ask end of the spectrum? Once you answer those two questions, you can plot them on the matrix. So it becomes an incredibly powerful diagnostic tool to help you understand where your people are and then where they need to go because once you plot your people, for example, let's say you have a direct report and that person is in box four, which means that you have to tell them, but they can operate at a process level. Then your mind automatically you start asking, how do I get them up into the right? 

0:34:00.7 Tim: How do I help them progress so that we can go more to the ask end of the coaching continuum and go all the way to outcome accountability? Your ultimate goal is to move people into box nine, which is outcome level accountability and coaching them at the ask end of the coaching continuum. That's box nine. That's the ultimate. That's where they will do the best work of their lives, and that's where you will gain maximum leverage as a leader. That's the aspiration. Not everyone may get to box nine, but it's still the aspiration. You're going to do everything that you can to help your people realize their potential, and the way that you do that as a coach, as a manager, is to aspire for box nine. That's where you're trying to go. That's going to help them the most, and it's going to help you the most as a coach, as a leader.

0:34:56.9 Junior: I think that it would be very interesting to take 30 minutes today, sit down and plot your people as Tim said, and then the next time that you're asked about your people, or the next time that you are thinking about the development of your people, think about it in the context of this matrix, think about the difference between saying, "Well, I'm just not sure what's going on with this person. They're just not doing well." "Okay. Well, what are you supposed to take from that?" "They're just struggling." This is what I'll hear sometimes. "Well, we're just not performing well." Okay, so think about that language. How descriptive, how actionable is that language? It's not.

0:35:43.1 Tim: It's not help.

0:35:44.3 Junior: It's not helpful. What am I supposed to say to that? This person's not doing well.

0:35:47.6 Tim: Well, Junior, that's like a patient that goes to the doctor and says, "I'm not feeling well." And the doctor goes, "Oh, great, okay. Let me treat that." You can't treat that. You don't know what's going on. You're dealing with symptoms, not root causes. So you gotta break it down.

0:36:03.5 Junior: Yeah, this is in top of mind for me. Think about taking your car into the shop. Let's say you're a mechanic and you have a customer that comes in. "My car is broken." Right? You think about the generalities of these types of statements, "I'm not feeling well. The car is broken. It didn't work." None of that is helpful if we just leave it at that. And so why do cars have OBD2 sensors, the diagnostic interface for a car? So that it can tell us what's actually going on objectively. So back to the original point, think about the difference between saying, "Oh, this person is just not doing well." Or, "This person is in box three, and this is what kind of characterizes their performance. I'm able to lead through asking at the task level for this person, and I'm trying to get them to process. And it's probably because they've only been enrolled for three months, and what I'm asking of this next level is fairly complicated." It just gives you a pathway, right? 

0:37:10.7 Junior: Or, "This person's in box six. How do we get them back up to that next level of outcome to box seven?" So to me, at least the way my brain works, very useful to have this linear path boxes one through nine, and see where our people are and how to get them to the next box.

0:37:30.5 Tim: Well, Junior, let's think about what we might call the natural... The expectation of migration. Here's what I mean by that. If we bring a new member onto the team and they're in box one, which means they're at a task level, and they're at the tell end of the coaching continuum, that's okay. They're new, they're new enroll, they've never done anything in their role before. So for them to be in box one, it's okay, but if we come back six months later and they're still in box one, is that okay? 

0:38:01.9 Junior: Not okay.

0:38:02.8 Tim: No, it's not okay. There's the expectation that they will be able to grow and develop and migrate and make progress, right? So you can't live in box one, but if you plot the direct reports that you have, and you find that you have people that live in box one, and they've been there for a long time, and there are several of them, say you have seven people on your team and four of them are in box one, you're really handicapped as a leader, you're really compromised as a leader in your own capability as a team and in the capability of your people. It's not okay for them to live and stay and set up shop in box one. That's not a destination. So the cultural expectation is that they move, they progress, they grow, and you're going to have to help them, but you can see where the matrix becomes incredibly helpful when you can plot an individual based on their accountability and based on the way that you can coach them.

0:39:09.3 Junior: The next invitation I wanna make is to plot ourselves. So we've been talking for the last while. Top-down, you plot your people, help your people, but you're on this matrix too.

0:39:22.6 Tim: That's true.

0:39:24.3 Junior: Especially at the level of accountability, are you operating at the task level, are you operating at the process level or the outcome level as an individual? And where might your supervisor put you assuming you had one on this matrix? Would they put you in box one or box five or box nine? I think it's important that we ask ourselves that question, be introspective about this as well, because we have to assume that there is room for us to grow. As individual contributors, as leaders, we want to move ourselves through these nine boxes, and we wanna help other people on their journey of moving through these nine boxes. And that's what I think is so interesting about the dance in leadership and coaching in particular, is it takes two. It takes the coachee their skill and will, it takes the coach their skill and will, and only together can you get to box nine. And sometimes one will be the limiter and sometimes the other will be the limiter. Sometimes the manager won't let people move and graduate. Other times maybe it's the willingness of the person being coached. And so there are some interesting dynamics to this, and I think it's appropriate for us to be introspective, really reflective about where we are, how we're doing as individuals and how we're doing as leaders, helping our people.

0:40:49.2 Tim: That's very true. Junior, maybe a final point that we could explore for just a minute would be to consider the distance between boxes one and nine. So we have a nine box matrix. Box one is the lower left-hand box, which is characterized by task level accountability and the tell end of the coaching continuum. That's box one, task and tell, tell and task. Now, let's go to box nine, which is the upper right box characterized by outcome level accountability and the ask end of the coaching continuum. Consider the distance between boxes one and nine. It's dramatic. We're not even in the same universe. If you have an individual that you can coach at outcome level accountability and stay almost exclusively at the ask end of the coaching continuum as you're interacting and coaching that person, that is a leaders, a managers, a coach's dream, that is the ultimate experience for you as a manager and for that individual as a member of your team. Now as I said, you can be in box one to begin. If you're new in your job, new your role, okay, fine, but think about people who set up shop in box one, task level accountability, and you have to tell them everything.

0:42:30.8 Tim: Think about we are worlds apart. Boxes one and nine are worlds apart. So that just helps us understand the nature of leadership and the nature of coaching as this crucial skill that helps us create leverage and helps us accelerate the development of our people. It's pretty unbelievable.

0:42:53.7 Junior: It's awesome. I love this stuff. It's so good. So in summary, as leaders, we wanna do two things. We wanna transfer critical thinking and we wanna transfer ownership. We do that by asking more questions, better questions, and by moving people to outcome level accountability through the three levels. So if you haven't already downloaded the matrix, it will be linked in the show notes. Print it out, keep it top of mind, put it on your desk, plot your people, plot yourself, use it. Tim, any final thoughts as we wrap up? 

0:43:26.2 Tim: Well, I would just come back to the fact that coaching is a central and crucial skill for leaders at every level. It's the basic blocking and tackling of leadership and management, and there's no graduation from coaching. There's no graduation. No one ever gets to the point where they don't need to be coached. Now, they may get to box nine, and we hope they get to box nine, outcome level accountability, ask end of the coaching continuum. That's fantastic, but there's no graduation from coaching because we don't wanna be micromanagers and we don't wanna be absentee landlords. So that's how central, that's how crucial this is to the role of every manager and every leader.

0:44:12.3 Junior: Well, Tim, I appreciated the conversation today and listeners, thank you for your attention today. We know that there are many other things that you could be listening to. We hope that your investment was worth it. We're thankful for the work that you do in the world. If you liked today's episode, please leave us a like, a review and share with someone you think would find it valuable. Have a great day, everyone. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.

0:44:41.7 Freddy: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at, and if you found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share it with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about LeaderFactor and what do, then please visit us at Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design Podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design, not by default.


Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

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