WATCH: How Well Are You Balancing Compassion and Accountability?

In this episode, I’d like to talk about ‘The Paradox of a Coaching Mindset’. That is the ability and tendency to show warmth and empathy towards others while also holding them to account. It means you show that you care about them, and you will also help them to be the best they can be. Now, this is one of the 12 behavioural paradoxes developed by Dr. Dan Harrison. And, if we take a paradox as two statements which seem to be contradicting one another and yet are both true. We can take a behavioural paradox, as being two traits or behaviours that seem to be contradicting one another and yet when they come together form something synergistic.  


So, in ‘The Paradox of a Coaching Mindset’ we’ve got the trait of ‘Enforcing’. Which is, holding people to account to the agreements that they’ve made, and making sure that they follow the rules and agreements that have been agreed.

Warmth and Empathy

And, if we take ‘Warmth and Empathy’, that’s about the tendency to having the expression of warmth and empathy towards others.


Now, if we are very high on ‘Enforcing’ but low on ‘Warmth and Empathy’, we can end up being in the ‘Harsh’ quadrant. And, while we may be good at holding others to account and ensuring compliance, we may not build sufficient rapport with people and that can damage relationships. And it can also make people feel that you’re being overly ‘Harsh’ or punitive. So, you may achieve compliance, but the cost of that is that people will feel demotivated that can hinder performance. And you may lose good people. Because they say, “I don’t want to be in this environment”, “I don’t feel comfortable here”.


And that can be very costly for the business. Where on the other hand, if we’re very high on ‘Warmth and Empathy’, but low on ‘Enforcing’ we may fall into the ‘Permissive’ quadrant. And, in that way, we may be very good at building rapport, and friendly teamwork with everyone. But may fail to actually hold people to account. And that means people could take advantage of our leniency. And the downside of that is that while people may feel appreciated, they may not even know that they’re underperforming. And top performers may see this and feel that they’re not appreciated because underperformance is not being addressed.

Compassionate Enforcing

So, what we want to do is we want to get to ‘Compassionate Enforcing’. Where we can hold people to account, and build meaningful, and caring relationships, and people understand that you’re genuinely caring about them and holding them to account to help them to be the best they can be. 

So, avoids being ‘Harsh’ and avoids being ‘Permissive’ and it means that above all when you’re thinking about a ‘Coaching Mindset’, stay curious! 


With best regards,

David Klaasen

Talent4Performance help business leaders clarify complexity. We inspire people and drive continuous performance improvement, so they can convert thinking into action and results.

©David Klaasen – 2022