A number of years ago I had an opportunity to attend a demonstration by a man named Monty Roberts who was the primary proponent of a new methodology of training horses. Although Monty is reasonably well known in horse circles a more common vehicle for the average person to connect with him is that the character played by Robert Redford in the movie The Horse Whisperer, was based on Roberts and his methods.

Conventional wisdom has been that you break a horse in. You teach them obedience by imposing your will on them. They learn to obey you and depend on you. Roberts’ methodology was and is a little revolutionary. Instead he argued you should give a horse the opportunity to join up with you. He explained that horses are a herd animal, they can’t survive in the wild on their own. Given the chance they have a natural proclivity to join up with other horses or even other animals of horses are not available. As my wife is an avid horse lover I have had a chance to see this phenomenon personally.

As a human resources practitioner for a number of years prior to that something clicked for me in that demonstration. Most of our employment models are and have been based on a compliance model. We instill obedience to set of rules or protocols in return for security. It is a model that dates back to ancient times. The powerful and rich determine the appropriate behaviors and in return for behaving in that manner they afford a certain degree of security to those who comply.

Models like Frederick Taylor’s scientific management reinforced that; some are born or trained to lead others should comply.

I added Robert’s key concepts to my own thinking along with a myriad of other models I have been exposed too and created my own model moving from Compliance to Commitment®, which I also refer to as c2C® or “little” c to big C.

My premise is that when you invite people to join up with you in support of a set of shared goals, values, and benefits you will likely see a much higher degree of success than relying on compliance. So far in experimenting with my model for over 15 years in multiple settings I have found my premise to be accurate.

Before you get alarmed that I am espousing some kind of corporate socialism, let me assure you I am not. My model has hierarchy, structure, expectations, etc. It is not democratic per se. What it does do is say that we form a kind of covenant or contract with one another and hold each other to it. It is a relationship between equals. I say equals, but not necessarily peers. Equals to me implies I don’t possess some divine or societal superiority over another person. That doesn’t mean I don’t have authority or greater autonomy to make decisions or set boundaries.

These days a lot of what is embedded in my model is referred to as employee engagement.
There is a lot of rhetoric and discussion around engagement. I believe that the fundamental foundation of engagement is alignment. Alignment defines itself in terms of effective execution. We mesh strategy with reality, align people and talent with goals and deliver the results we commit to. The keys are that we do it willingly and proactively and we do it in furtherance of a group of shared goals and values. In that fashion it differentiates itself from a morale building or employee satisfaction initiative. Those are generally outcomes of effective engagement.

Engagement is systemic. To do it successfully and sustainably it involves every element of the interactions between stakeholders including customers, shareholders, employees and communities. It is also integrated. You can’t just address one part of the equation.

Engagement is indisputably superior to other models. The results are pouring in demonstrating that highly aligned/engaged organizations outperform their competitors in every key performance indicator by substantial margins. This is true across all sectors.

So you might ask why aren’t more organizations endorsing and implementing an engagement strategy- several reasons:

  • We don’t as yet have a common definition of engagement.
  • Effective engagement is simple, but not easy. It requires both leadership and management.
  • It is relationship versus technology or systemically based. You can’t just install a system or a template.
  • It represents a significant change from the way we have led and managed organizations for hundreds of years.
  • Change and overcoming inertia is hard.
  • Sponsorship in most organizations has been delegated to the human resources function. There are two issues with that; 

One, most HR people see themselves as experts in and responsible for compliance not change management, and two, that kind of culture change has to be driven by and supported by the C suite. It is systemic and cultural not a program.

Engagement offers huge opportunities. The number of highly engaged employees and highly engaged organizations represents a distinct minority not only in the U.S., but internationally.
The opportunity for engagement is societal as well as industrial. I recently published an E-Book called Plan B, an Alternative to Obamacare.

My premise in the book is that there are serious flaws in the model proposed by the President. Much of the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is compliance based rather than commitment based. It also doesn’t deal with what I believe to be many of the root causes to our health care issues.

Our political debate right now is compliance based. A large part of the platform I hear coming from the GOP is telling people the right (no pun intended) way to live, conduct their social relationships, and a number of other principles. The leadership of the party has made that very clear.

The Senate Minority Leader announced after the mid-term elections that their number one priority was to prevent the current Administration from being reelected. Not strengthening the economy, removing us from conflicts, or other activities; but preventing this President from being elected to a second term.

The GOP candidate indicated that if elected he will return the U.S. to a place of leadership internationally- essentially imposing a U.S. style Christian value based system on the rest of the world.

Much of the rhetoric and action from the DNC has been greater government intervention and imposing their viewpoints. I see that as a well- intentioned, but misguided continuation of codependency and adversarial perception between the sectors to create a collaborative model.

This week I read an article about a study done by the international HR consulting organization the Hay Group that came to the conclusion that creating an employment brand, where all stakeholder groups are represented and an integrated model is created yields tremendous organizational success and that when that model is created collaboratively by C level leadership, marketing, and human resources it is much more effective. 

I have to admit my reaction was duh! Some of us have known that for a while although it is nice to get the validation.

Giving people something to join up to and share will always be in my experience and opinion far superior than demanding compliance.

There is no opportunity like the present…….


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