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"Compliance or Commitment; Which are You Asking of Your People?"

By Gary B. Minor

(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)

In the world of work, there are many ways that people can view their positions. The two opposite polls, compliance or commitment have surfaced in several of the workshops that I have led recently. If you think about these two, which would you rather get from your people? If you think that compliance is what you are asking of them, then you will be satisfied with the minimum effort required to meet minimum standards of performance.

However, don't be surprised if your people seem bored with their jobs, act uninspired, and treat customers with a casual attitude. Your best people will tend to leave you for other companies and you will spend most of your time putting out fires and "cracking the whip", just to keep them on the road to accomplish the minimum. Sound like your job? Sound like your people?

The other approach is to strive for commitment from your people. In this mode, they are not satisfied with mere minimum effort, nor are they satisfied with minimum results. They pursue excellence in all things and work to do the best job they can within the time and resources available. They don't leave for other jobs, as they are engaged in fulfilling work, that they believe matters. They push for more responsibility and the benefits that come with it. Consequently, you are free to look into the future, spending your time on where you want to be, rather than always playing catch up and fireman.

Which one better describes your shop? Is compliance what you are used to getting? Do you have to fight heavy resistance just to get that? If so, chances are that you believe that you know what is best for you people, and you tell them what, and how to do their job. You have to constantly inspect their work. You have to continually tell them what to do. You have to continually threaten or punish them to overcome the resistance.

If commitment is what you are used to seeing, then you most likely see little resistance. This is because you tell them what and why they need to do what they need to do, rather than what and how. You collaborate with them on the how, so that they have a vested interest in the work itself. You allow them to exercise their own initiate in planning their work, so that they can do it their way at their pace, within stated deadlines.

The big differences between the two approaches have to do with the mind set of management. Letting your people know why things need to happen, gives them a sense of purpose by knowing where their work fits into the larger scheme of things. Letting them select the methods by which they will pursue stated goals or results allows them to use their own ideas to achieve a larger purpose, giving them a sense of belonging to the organization.

Allowing them the opportunity to have a stake in the end result of a process or project rather than merely going through abstract steps, provides an incentive to see their own ideas come to fruition, developing a sense of ownership in the result.

This process of fostering commitment takes time. Too much time, you may think. As with any planning process, though, minutes invested on the front end will save hours in execution on the back end. Do you have the time to keep putting out fires and cracking the whip? I suggest that if you try it, the time needed will actually prove to be a wise investment that pays dividends for years to come.

If you want to build a high level of commitment, I suggest these steps:

1. Tell your people what needs to be done, and why.
2. Coach them through the process of discovering how to accomplish the task.
3. Develop a sense of collaboration on the project, that you are working together, to achieve this desired result.
4. Provide corrective feedback when needed, and positive feedback when little wins are achieved along the way.

By developing a spirit of collaboration, you can spend more time with your eye and mind on the long term, rather than putting out today's fires. You will be able to perform better, your people will perform better, and the commitment process will build on itself for years to come. Who knows; you may be able to put away you fireman's helmet.

Try It!

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