While watching a recent newscast, I heard an executive from a pharmaceutical company state that he is more interested in cooperation rather than compliance.
There is a lot to unpack with this comment, so let’s try to keep it simple.

I’m often frustrated when customer service agents, or anyone for that matter, make the following statement: “Sir, we need to follow policy.” While I agree that company policies are important, I also think policies and compliance go together.
Let me use an example to illustrate … Several years ago, while working fulltime at a university, I was assigned to a faculty committee. Our main purpose was to review academic rigor across the Business department.
I recall one meeting right before the Thanksgiving break when we completed the agenda items in 48 minutes, and I was ready to bolt from the room.
However, the committee chair stated that it was university policy for all faculty meetings to last at least 1-hour. Unbelievably, for the next 12 minutes, our group of 6 people sat at the conference table nearly in silence until the top of the hour.
What! This was crazy!
As you can see with this example, the university leaders demanded compliance from their employees, even when it led to wasting time. The chair wanted to let us out early, but she was afraid our abbreviated session would be reported to her manager.
Cooperation is Preferred
When the leadership team seeks feedback from employees at all levels of the organization, they are more likely to get cooperation. Employees appreciate the opportunity to share ideas that will help the company meet its goals, and the knowledge they bring to the table is invaluable.
The benefits of cooperation include the following examples …

  • Employees are unafraid to provide alternative solutions to problems or opportunities. In many cases, these individuals have first-hand knowledge of customer needs, which is critically important.
  • There are times when complex projects must be completed under tight deadlines. When employees know they are appreciated, they are more likely to volunteer for these initiatives, and they will do their best to meet the goals and objectives.
  • Given the high turnover rates in many industries, employees who feel valued are more likely to practice loyalty to the company. There’s something about walking the hallways of an organization where people are happy about the work they do and proud to be part of the company. The value of these smiles and lighthearted attitude is part of the organization’s DNA, and it has a direct impact on the company’s success.

For some odd reason, managers and other leaders still believe that telling people what to do and strictly enforcing compliance is in their job description.
It’s not!
The best way to lead is to empower others to make their own decisions. This means that excellent training is provided, and psychological safety is practiced.
In other words, employees should not be punished when making a mistake based on a decision at their level.
Everyone, including experienced leaders, will make mistakes. These are learning moments that can build trust when handled correctly.
This type of work environment creates a positive atmosphere where employees are working cooperatively for the success of the company instead of constantly worrying about complying to the demands of company policy.