Building Employee Commitment vs. Compliance in a Privately Held Company

Mar 8, 2022

IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses.  The following blog has been provided by Michael Beck of Eliciting Excellence (

Building Employee Commitment vs. Compliance in a Privately Held Company

A workforce filled with people who are compliant will get the job done and the results will be acceptable.  But if the goal is to exceed satisfactory results and achieve excellent results, a committed workforce is required.  When someone is compliant, they simply obey – doing what’s asked of them but no more.  Typically they’re doing just enough to keep their job.  Conversely, someone who’s committed will spend time and effort outside of normal business hours thinking about work and solving problems, finding better ways to get the job done, seeking out new insights, and then acting on them.

What causes someone to be committed?  There are a number of major drivers of commitment.  The first is that they need to have some degree of intrinsic motivation.  In other words, they need to be at least somewhat self-motivated to start with.  If a person isn’t self-motivated about the work they’re doing, they should find a job that has the kind of work they can be enthused about.

The second driver of commitment involves the person they report to – their leader/boss.  A motivated, committed person will soon become unhappy if their boss is someone they don’t trust and respect.  Leaders can build or undermine trust in a number of ways.  It’s often a matter of integrity.  I’m not talking about honesty (although being an honest person is absolutely essential), but rather about a leader doing what they say they will do, and being the kind of person they say they are.  Mistrust grows when someone doesn’t follow through on their commitments and trust grows when they do follow through.  Mistrust grows when someone claims to embrace certain values but acts in a manner at odds with them, and trust grows as people consistently act in alignment with the values they say matter to them.  When it comes to respect, a leader demonstrates they respect someone when they listen to their ideas and interact with them in a respectful manner.  Of course, a leader can’t claim trust and respect from others.  Trust and respect have to be earned, which takes consistency of word and action over time.

The third driver of commitment involves the culture of the organization.  An organization which claims certain core values but acts in ways which clearly demonstrate that those values don’t matter, soon causes widespread disillusionment and disengagement.  It’s just like a leader professing the importance of certain values but acting in a manner at odds with those values.  When a company tolerates bad behavior, it demonstrates a lack of integrity, which leads to a loss of trust and respect within the organization.

The fourth and final driver of commitment involves the initiatives undertaken by the company, the department, or the team.  An initiative without a reason is simply a goal, and goals by themselves are cold, unemotional targets, lacking any purpose other than to make the person who set the goal look good.  If an initiative is to drive commitment, there needs to be a “why” to go along with the goal.  People become engaged and committed when they believe in what they’re doing and feel they are making a difference.

If you want a committed workforce, start by ensuring that skilled people are being hired who are self-motivated and aligned with the organization’s culture.  Ensure that leaders at all levels improve their interpersonal skills.  Take a good hard look at whether the organization is living up to the core values it claims to embrace.  And be clear about why initiatives are being undertaken.  It may not be easy, but the results are always well worth it.

Michael Beck is an executive coach, business strategist, and author.  If you have questions about the content of this article or would like to obtain information related to the services offered by Eliciting Excellence, Mr. Beck would welcome communication at (503) 928-7645 or His company offers leadership assessments and executive coaching, all designed to help successors succeed and owners get paid. Learn more at

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