Turn Compliance Into Commitment: Promise and Follow-up

Previously we discussed the first two steps required to change a compliance situation at work into one of commitment: conversation for agreement and request. During a conversation for agreement, my task is to discover what motivates the person I’m speaking with. Once I understand this, I propose a specific action that needs to take place within a specific time period in order for the goal to be accomplished. Then I’m ready for the third step: promise.

During this phase I ask my employee if they are willing to carry out this proposal of making two hundred calls in two weeks to reach a 20% increase in sales. At this point I need to hear “Yes, I’ll do it,” or “No, I won’t.” When you make pure requests, there must always be room for a yes or no. If you force a person to say yes, there’s no real commitment, it’s only compliance. If the person willingly agrees, however, then you have brought to life something that didn’t exist before this linguistic action took place. This agreed upon action is a solid experience in space that is as real as a door, a tire, a house or a car.

What if the employee says no? That’s not a bad thing. You still move forward toward the action you want to accomplish, because a no is better than not knowing at all. If the employee says, “Maybe,” or “I’ll try,” you have no commitment; all you have is vagueness. At this point you’d ask the employee how many calls they are willing make. If they say one hundred-fifty calls, then you negotiate up to the amount you know is the very minimum to reach the sales goal: one hundred seventy-five. If they agree, then you’re in business. They might also ask a request of you, such as cell phones for everyone on their staff. Through these negotiations, you come to an agreement that satisfies both of you. If they still say “no,” however, they’re not motivated for this goal and it’s time to move on to another employee.

The final step of turning compliance into commitment is follow-up. During the request step of this process I said I would check on the employee’s progress in fifteen days. Since I said I would follow up, then I’d better not miss or postpone this meeting! Doing so will cause me to lose credibility because I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. In the future I would have a difficult time developing a promise and request process with this person again.

And what if the employee didn’t complete the promised two hundred phone calls? Then it’s time to discuss what works, what doesn’t work and what’s next. In this example, I initiate a new cycle of promise and request, emphasizing the need to make up the calls they lack. Will they commit to doing that in fifteen days and then meet back in my office? Again, this is negotiable. If they show up again and haven’t completed the agreed upon request, then I go back to the conversation for commitment or agreement with them. If they continue to agree, but don’t produce results, then I remove them from my team.

The four steps of promise and request — conversation for agreement, request, promise and follow-up — are tools to create commitment and results with those you work or live with. You can also learn more about this subject in a 52-week course, Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time (for a free offer, click here and sign up for “52 FREE Weekly Leadership Lessons”).

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