Feelings > Compliance



On the surface, leadership looks like an exercise in getting as many people compliant with one’s vision and direction. A naive leader will find themselves forcing others to comply to their policies, their direction, their demands.

A while back I was in a meeting with a colleague going over the particulars of how I was going to implement a particular project. He started coming up with what I thought were dumb requirements, but I didn’t think it would help things to fight him, so I dutifully wrote the requirements down and told him that I would implement them. We went back and forth a few times to make sure I had it, and I explained that I had it and that I was going to implement the requirements the way he wanted them.

On the outside, I was compliant to my colleague’s wishes. On the inside I was frustrated and wanted to exit the conversation.

It’s so easy to dismiss how people feel when I work with them. I’ve come to realize that their feelings about what I’m doing are more important than how much they outwardly follow my direction. If I interact with people and they come away from it feeling respected, listened to, and excited about what is possible, then I don’t have to worry about their compliance. On the other hand, if they are compliant but secretly think I’m an asshole, then they will probably do whatever they can to do the absolute minimum and will be happy when I fail.

I find it easier to start with one’s feelings. How do you feel about this change, project, or challenge? What can we come up with together that will address some of those things? If we have that conversation, then they are less likely to be externally compliant yet secretly hostilite.

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