Too many managers and leaders expect and encourage their employees to be compliant. They neglect to fully account for their employees’ desires or opinions.
They assume their employees will automatically commit to a new direction or strategy. They believe they should not have to ask for people’s commitment. They come from a school of thought that employees are obliged to align when a boss asks for it.
It’s a belief to the effect of, “We shouldn’t have to beg you to get on board. That’s what you are paid to do. This isn’t a democracy. As soon as you understand the rationale and valid business reasons for this direction or strategy, you should be fully behind it.” This assumption is incorrect and dangerous.
We find that this attitude often stems from a view that compliance is the same as commitment. It isn’t.
Compliance and commitment are fundamentally different and have fundamentally different results. Leaders should encourage commitment, not compliance. To be clear though, just because people have a low level of commitment, does not mean that they won’t do their jobs. High levels of commitment, though ideal, are not necessary for the completion of basic job duties. Fear of being fired for sub-optimal job performance is enough to motivate most people to do what it takes to keep their positions. Additionally, from a less cynical viewpoint, most people are proficient enough at their jobs to perform it without applying their full passion, dedication, intelligence and commitment. We know that the Pyramids were not built by a particularly enthusiastic work force. Therefore, lukewarm organizational commitment to a strategy or initiative will not inherently guarantee its failure. Compliance can, at a basic level, accomplish your goals. However, true commitment can take your organization to an entirely different level.
True commitment goes far beyond compliance. When people are committed, they behave differently in key ways. They invest their hearts and souls in the cause. They perform their roles with passion and energy. They take on bold promises and commitments. They follow through with extraordinary levels of tenacity and perseverance; they don’t give up. They look out for opportunities to improve, fix and perfect things. They genuinely care for others who are on the journey with them. These behaviors will never be characteristics of employees who are merely compliant.
These differentiations between truly committed and compliant employees showcase how powerful commitment can be. A committed organization is one whose employees work harder to accomplish their tasks. It’s a place where people anticipate problems and resolve them early, before they fester. Excuses are not tolerated — only answers and actions to how problems are going to be fixed. People love coming to work. They’re more productive, creative, attentive and aware.
Contrast that with an environment of compliance. People don’t take the new initiatives to heart. They don’t ache for it or want it in their gut. If it fails, they don’t lose sleep over it. In fact, they brush it off as someone else’s fault. Because they don’t view the game as their own, they avoid expressing their views including when they feel things are not working the way they should. And, if things fail they have no problem taking out the “I told you so” card. They detach themselves emotionally from its success or failure, and by making few or no guarantees to deliver specific outcomes; they are less likely to see a personal role in making the initiatives happen.
Commitment unleashes the true potential of people and the organizations in which they work.
How do you foster true commitment in your workplace?