The Illusion of Compliance

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I recently spent an afternoon sharing with a leadership university. The global audience was fantastic and some of them have joined us here – welcome!

In that presentation I shared an anecdote about my conversation with a career politician. A few years ago he was in the U.S. Congress with the role of leading the national budget process. I decided to interview him about how he used the change leadership skill of coalition building to get things done in Washington. I was looking for lessons we could apply in the business world.

We sat down and I turned on my tape recorder. He started out by saying that in business we had it easy in regards to leading change. Of course, this piqued my interest. He explained, “In business you have it easy because all you have to do is tell people what to do and they have to do it.”

In case you missed it read that statement again. We just tell people what to do and they do it. I realized this politician never had a real job before so I just turned off the tape recorder at that point. 😉

Of course some jobs require exacting compliance for safety and other reasons. So much of leadership though is influencing behavior that goes far beyond mere compliance.

We operate in a thinking economy. We need people to adapt to the environment and react while making the right choices that are congruent with the strategy. After all, we’re seldom there at the most crucial moments.

Leading for compliance is easier. Our mentors just a generation ago lead that way. It’s what we were taught and experienced ourselves. It is the old normal.

The New Leadership Normal is harder. It’s less obvious cause and effect. It’s more subtle. It requires more balls in the air.

Leadership today is like leaping off a cliff and hoping there is a net to catch us. We’re dependent on people being engaged enough to engage all their skills in the correct direction.

Everything we do is should be along the lines of creating a sense of ownership for those we lead and respecting those fellow owners.

Yesterday I watched a CIO of a $2.5B company participating in a team coaching session as part of a regular group of people two and three levels below him on the org chart. One of his employees was leading the coaching session. He was a fellow owner in this group. He gave no direction. He wasn’t an executive. He was part of the team. The message was loud and clear.

Compliance work is the minimum requirement. How can we go beyond the minimum to the extraordinary?

To do this week: Look for opportunities to acknowledge extraordinary work that goes beyond the compliance level. Also, set the tone that extraordinary work is the expectation.

Let me know how it’s going. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On September 5, 2017
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