Do You Get Compliance or Alliance?

Photo © Jjava – Adobe Stock. All Rights Reserved.

What do you do when team members are not doing what you need (or ask) them to do?

Your job, as a team leader, is to get work done through others, using formal authority or influence. So how do you get people back on track?

Let’s look at two approaches: compliance or alliance.

Compliance is the lowest level of partnership. Team members do what they are “supposed to” and you closely monitor all their activities and track their performance. Compliance means they do not have an option to refuse to participate. It leads to action, but not always solutions. Why?  Activity only for the sake of complying with expectations does not energize team members to do more than the bare minimum.

Alliance, on the other hand, is the most desired level of partnership. Alliance means that team members not only do what they need to do, but they know why they should. They understand the benefits to customers, the company, and themselves when they embrace the mission enthusiastically. These team members are willing to exceed standards, find ways to improve efficiency and collaborate with energy. They provide solutions along with the activity.

How do you know whether you are gaining only compliance instead of alliance?

Compliant-only team members tend to:

  • Miss milestones. Because they do not care that much, missing a target or a deadline does not bother them. They let you as team leader take the heat.
  • Wait and watch. They will not be proactive but wait to react when it becomes a crisis mode.
  • Act busy while you are watching. If they know the team leader is around, they will ramp up their efforts. However, when you are not present? The energy and pace drop, possibly significantly.

Team members practicing alliance:

  • Engage in discussion with you and their peers. They want to fully understand the mission and any parameters that must be considered. They enjoy brainstorming, even if the discussions get LOUD and LONG
  • Apply energy to their goals and tasks. They do this not just when you are around.
  • Offer creative ideas and thought-out recommendations. They want to enhance product and service delivery.

You can tell that alliance is much more desirable than compliance. You gain alliance by enabling your team members to engage in their jobs fully, and then holding them accountable.  Educate them on more than just the elements of a task or project. Help them understand the “Why?” Share the strategy, context, values, and even how the customer will use the product or service your team is delivering.

Delegate authority and responsibility to talented, engaged players who have earned the right to act independently.  Trust them to be excellent stewards of your team resources and reputation, then hold them accountable.

Your job is to ensure that agreed-to standards are met or exceeded, within budget, time frames, and quality standards. You can do this much more easily with “alliance” practicing team members.

Photo © Jjava – Adobe Stock. All Rights Reserved.


S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading and managing successful business teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Under Chris’ guidance, culture clients have consistently boosted their customer satisfaction and employee engagement rates by 40 percent or more and results and profits by 35 percent or more.