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  • David Spader

Compliance is Not Commitment

Updated: Jun 10, 2019


Affecting positive change is one of the most rewarding aspects in the field of leadership development. When a leader learns better ways achieving results it positively impacts dozens of people instantly and hundreds of people indirectly. It is why we feel that every leader should constantly be striving to deliver the two results identified in our PRO-daptive® leadership model; success and satisfaction.


Research by us, and others, has demonstrated that to achieve BOTH of these outcomes we need to effectively utilize two broad types of behaviors. The first type of behaviors are directive. Examples of directive behaviors are instructing, monitoring, controlling, focusing, telling and showing. These are primarily needed to achieve results like improved competence, efficiencies and productivity. Directive approaches primarily help achieve SUCCESS.


The second type of behaviors are supportive. Examples include encouraging, praising, listening, connecting, enhancing and commending. These primarily lead to the achievement of SATISFACTION, the second outcome of effective leaders.


The problem comes when leaders use directive and supportive actions inappropriately or ineffectively. While the intent of most leaders is honorable, the delivery often yields something different than what was desired. One of the most common misunderstandings leaders have is not fully appreciating the difference between compliance and commitment.


Below are a few of the differences between compliance and commitment:


Compliance: Relies on obedience, control and negative consequences to shape behavior.

· Requires Authority (direction/control only)

· Can be implemented very quickly but has shorter staying power

· Relies on Positional Power

· Requires conformity and obedience

· Often weakens employee’s relationship to their manager and the organization


Commitment - Relies more on emotional engagement to shape behavior

· Requires Engagement (direction/control AND support)

· May take more time but has longer staying power

· Relies on Relational Power

· Requires understanding and agreement

· Strengthens employee’s relationship to their manager and the organization


The effects of getting compliance without commitment was recently demonstrated when exploring coaching skills in our Leadership Development Program (LDP). One of the participants spoke about a department manager who consistently fought them on the budget goals and would say, “you’re the boss so I guess that is my goal”. It was obvious this manager did not believe the goal was attainable and that their commitment was “iffy” at best. In the past, our LDP participant would have simply moved on, aggressively monitored the situation and “let that manager know who the boss is” if results were not desirable. After learning strategies on how to get commitment, he re-engaged this manager. What resulted was a meeting in which they were both able to honestly discuss the challenges of the budget and agree on ways to overcome them. In this discussion, it was also unveiled that the manager didn’t really understand the financials. They agreed to meet more regularly to improve his knowledge so that he could truly take more ownership of the department. These discussions would not have happened in the past with the “I’m-the-boss-so-do-what-I-say” approach.


Our research indicates that only 10-20% of managers are effective at getting commitment (versus compliance) in favorable situations and conditions. That number drops to less than 5% when things are unfavorable and the situation is more negative. Yet, this is when it is even more important! It is one of the biggest leadership and management opportunities that exists in most organizations. And it’s important! As Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work”. Are you ready to commit to adding this skill to your leadership and management toolkit?


This blog was written by David Spader co-author of the Pro-daptive® Leadership Model and founder of All-Win Leadership™ Solutions. He has spent more than 20 years providing individuals, teams, and organizations with solutions that increase both Success and Satisfaction. This includes training programs, management and coaching tools, articles, and a forth-coming book on the topic with Michael O’Connor (the best-selling co-author of Managing By Values, The Leader Within and several other books).

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