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My team isn’t following, procedures.

How do I improve compliance?

     Lack of Compliance is a core leadership issue. If you have compliance, you don’t need leadership; all you need are directives. Noncompliance means someone needs to step up, grasp the situation, and provide motivation and direction. Problem-solving is only necessary when routine processes are not enough. Problem-solving requires a leader

     Understanding is the first step in solving a problem. Most people want to comply. There is usually a reason for non-compliance. Listen with curiosity. Ask questions. Why are they acting that way? Their actions may not be rational. Assume they are trying to do their best as they understand it. Find out what they understand is happening.

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     There can be good reasons for non-compliance. It may be the accomplishment of an important goal. It might be a lack of resources or time pressures. If rules are contradictory or incompatible with the realities of the job, full compliance may not be possible. Be on their side. Get a clear picture of what is happening and why. Non-compliance may be a reasonable choice. If it is, the process needs to change.

     Some things that make sense at a high level do not communicate well to front-line staff. If your team doesn’t see the point in compliance, they may slack off. It is essential to find out what led up to the situation. Problems sometimes compound; for example, poor communication may be coupled with a lack of enforcement.

     Getting compliance requires leadership and leadership starts with curiosity. Once you understand the what and the why the next step is to develop an effective response. Your solution might be as simple as letting your team know you are watching. In another situation, a training and communication approach might be necessary. In still others, it might require a change in the processes. Regardless of the solution, the first step is genuine curiosity.

Bruce's Garden

     You might discover there is a blind-spot. Compliance is based in hierarchical thinking and is not universal. Some people don’t think that way. That’s especially true of teams that innovate or demonstrate high customer service orientations. Their focus means they don’t think about regulations and rules. I did some work with a very highly regarded organization that delivers health care resources. They had a stunning reputation for efficiency, quality, and innovation. They were also habitually out of compliance on key health indicators. Their managers’ approach was simple—if we are doing a good job, then regulations don’t matter. The blind spot was profound and permanent.

     If the problem is a blind-spot then the leader needs to puts the staff in charge. They need to develop their own rationale for compliance and their own methods for ensuring it takes place. They are not going to be able to see the necessity of someone else’s rules. Most people want to comply; a leader’s job is to liberate that desire.


Bruce Hiebert Ph.D. has been studying team performance and decision-making for many years. He knows it can be tough to keep a team motivated and focused. Get the tools to change how they are thinking so they show up excited to participate, keen to solve problems, and determined to reach goals. Take the free test at and find out how you think. Then get the training to use the tool professionally.