A compliance culture is old school. An initiative culture is new school. When it comes to job enjoyment, organizational morale and increased productivity, new school is better than old school; initiative better than compliance.

 Compliance has to do with rules, regulations, policy and procedures. These are not bad in and of themselves, but when they dominate and lead to the slow death of personal initiative they are very much counter-productive and kill creativity and innovation, which are at the heart of any group or organization’s longevity. We need both/and.  Top down to keep vision and values in place, and bottom up to generate new ideas and solutions to vexing problems and issues.  Too much compliance kills imaginative initiative.

 Here are a few thoughts on how, as a leader, you can keep healthy compliance while at the same time creating and fostering a culture of initiative-taking.

 These are adapted from “Bits and Pieces.”

The more freedom you give people to do their jobs the way they’d like to do them, the more satisfaction they’ll get from their work. Most leaders are supposed to be a little smarter than other people and, in most respects, they probably are. 

But if leaders insist on doing all the thinking for their organizations, if everything has to be done THEIR way, what’s left for the people who work for them to dream about and create?

How much personal satisfaction can there be in doing a job that is completely programmed, where your muscles or brain are used to perform repetitive operations already planned and dictated by someone else? There ought to be something in every role and job that’s satisfying to the person who does it. Unfulfilled people can be just as serious a problem as ineffective methods.

Creating a climate of initiative and empowerment that gives people some independence, without losing control, takes a lot of leadership skill.  It also hinges on the content of a job and the judgment and ability of the person handling it. 

 Here are four ideas used by successful leaders:

  1. Agreed upon end results – Giving people a clear idea of  your expectations and the results you want to achieve and leaving the methods to them.

  2. Suggesting methods rather than dictating them, with the understanding that people are free to devise something better.

  3. Consulting people affected by a problem or a proposed change and asking their ideas, regardless of whether you think you need them or not.

  4. Enriching jobs by delegating decisions and fostering initiative as far down the line as possible. If a worker is capable of being trained to make a certain decision intelligently, why have it referred to a supervisor?  If a supervisor is capable, why refer to someone above?