Compliance Versus Commitment – Revisited

Reposting this article we published several years ago, because it is more relevant than ever…

At first glance, compliance might seem like a pretty attractive idea. After all, don’t we want our employees to produce, perform and deliver? Hasn’t the carrot and the stick worked for centuries?

Well, yes and no.

Incentivizing and penalizing employees can create compliance. However, once an organization meets (or doesn’t meet) its objective, the company needs to come up with a bigger carrot (expensive), produce a bigger stick (costly in morale), or hire a new rabbit (costly on both points.) My guess is that these are undesirable options for a company that wants to achieve great results.

But the biggest problem with compliance can be found in the very definition of the word. When we ask or expect our employees to comply, we are literally asking them to “conform, acquiesce or yield.” Do you really want a building full of people whose main purpose is limited to these three options? I suggest if the answer is yes, your results are likely predictable, you may be having a hard time getting people motivated for the next objective, or perhaps the performance of your people is actually slipping.

This is because in the state of compliance, people are creating results to mold to the expectations of a person, goal or set of rules, and that’s it. The objective is to meet the requirement, and stop. Create a new requirement, comply, and stop. When individuals are required to constantly chase a goal external to their deeper interests the net effect is to create a treadmill where the greatest result – personal satisfaction and next-level performance– is never fulfilled.

Since we are interested in great results, let’s look at the other possibility.

To create commitment, give employees an opportunity to develop and enroll; to become an integral part of the mission. Allow people the freedom and creativity to invest their gifts and their personal vision in the actual outcome. Success for the committed employee is its own reward. To create these conditions:

  • Hire people for the gifts that they bring. Appreciate them for it.
  • Involve people in the decisions closest to them.
  • Lead them to connect with a purpose greater than themselves.

Every person in an organization, regardless of position or skill set plays a critical role in the company mission. Whether that employee sees that role as one of mere execution or contribution is up to the leader.

– written by Mike Whitehead, as published by Greater Charlotte Biz Mag


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