From Compliance to Commitment

Excerpts of this article taken from our paper:

“From Compliance to Commitment; Using 2-way conversations to engage your people”

Download the full PDF version for free


When leading change, getting people on board and keeping them engaged is the toughest part. Imagine if you could actually get people to be driving pieces of the change from their own perspective instead.

The temptation when you have a strong vision of how you need your organisation to change, is to work it all out in advance, then present your vision and plan to your workforce. You might expect that, by introducing a coherent programme of change, people will understand your intent and see the benefit of the new ways in which you intend things to get done. The thing is, it doesn’t seem to go quite like that does it?

“Lots of people nod along, then go back to work to carry on as before”

Some of your people seem enthused, some maybe feel uncertain or threatened, a few might object or point out flaws in the plan. Even people who initially commit may fall away in the face of the realities of everyday work. Lots of people nod along, then go back to work to carry on as before with a “wait and see” approach.

This is a very solvable problem. What if, instead of feeling the need to draw each piece of the picture yourself, you could rely on other members of your workforce to add the detail and take ownership of progress?

It starts by engaging with your people in 2-way conversations about what you want to achieve, comparing that to where you’re starting from and what the future needs to be like. Then you can invite them to participate in crafting their future with you.

Some of your people may have more to offer than you’ve given them space to do so far. If you don’t use this capability there is a risk that they feel like your solutions are sub-optimal. If they genuinely feel that they can meet your goals with a “better” idea of their own you risk them either checking out of the process entirely, or possibly even using guerrilla tactics to show you the faults of your plan.

If you’re lucky they could speak up, offering you their way as a better option, but you can enable this by design. If you can access their version of how to reach the outcomes that you define, then they’ll have their fingerprints all over the plan and there’s a far better chance that they’ll be more committed to its success.

Of course not everyone will want to play. There is value in the people who prefer to focus on delivering predictable results to a fixed process. Indeed some of this may be essential to the ongoing success of your business. These folks aren’t necessarily intransigent, but may not be the ones to focus your effort on. There may be others with complex motivations who appear to be actively resisting you, and they may warrant a different sort of attention, but that’s a subject for another article.

The important thing is that you don’t need everyone to drive the change. It is sufficient at first for a few willing agents to lead the way and engage the spectators gradually as you build momentum.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

There is great value in having 2-way dialogue as a group. Your participants may be less inhibited when collaborating with colleagues, especially when you facilitate a positive atmosphere of contribution being valuable in its own right, rather than the need for correct answers or agreement (more on that in the free download below).

Alignment is another added benefit of group engagement sessions. Not only will your participants get clear on what you are hoping to achieve, but they will come to understand that in each other’s terms too. This will help later, if apparently conflicting activities emerge and need to be reconciled, by tying them back to the common outcomes you have agreed.

Making the conversation go both ways can work in small and large groups. What size of group will work best for you is dependent on the scale of the change, the number of people involved and the timeline you want to work to, but with adjustments for group dynamics the same straightforward conversational steps can form a core structure.

Download your complimentary copy of our full illustrated PDF guide to using this approach, including the 6 steps and facilitators notes: