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Adherence to Policies and Procedures - 31 August 2010

During the past decade, anti-Americanism around the world has been intense – even outside the Middle East. Between 2000 and 2006, positive feelings in the UK of the United States fell from 83 per cent to 56 per cent. In France it plummeted to 39 per cent. In Germany it dived to the same level, and even Spain registered a tragic approval rating of 23 per cent.

Today it’s a different story. The most recent data from the Pew Research Centre shows that 65 per cent of the British think positively about the Americans, as do three-quarters of the French, 63 per cent of the Germans, and 61 per cent of the Spanish. That’s a complete turnaround

So, what’s changed? Leadership’s changed. During George Bush’s presidency, America was notorious for its hard power, which is the use of threats or force to defeat an enemy. Hard power is aggressive and it creates fear and diminishes trust. Perhaps it was justified and necessary, but it’s only ever effective when it’s used sparingly and quickly. When it’s maintained over a long period of time, it becomes unsustainable.

When Barack Obama became the president, the tone from the White House changed dramatically. Obama opted for soft power, which is when you persuade and attract people to your ideas via an exchange of sincere dialogue. It’s when you seek mutual understanding and common ground with respect at the core of each meeting. While this is a far slower endeavour, it’s the only one that preserves the relationship. In Obama’s case, countries that were previously unwilling to listen to the US were suddenly all ears.

When trying to get your employees to adhere to policies and procedures, you have hard power and soft power at your disposal. Hard power is negative motivation. This is when you intimidate employees into compliance. You issue warnings, reprimand them, and offer greater (or fewer) tangible rewards. Soft power is when you get them to follow a new process via the art of influence. Here are seven ways to do that.

Involve people: Get your employees’ buy-in before a new process is set up.

Explain yourself: Don’t just issue instructions. Explain the rationale behind them.

Verify understanding: Check that you and your team are on the same page.

Communicate openly: Once the new procedure is in place, ask staff for feedback.

Be credible: Display the desired behaviours you most want to see.

Be friendly: Employees are more prone to accept ideas from personable managers.

Repeat the process: Most of us need to hear stuff a few times before it sinks in.

Does soft power always work better than hard power? No. That’s why it’s good to know the benefits of both because they each have a place in modern management. But if you rely too much on hard power, you’ll constantly be confronted by antagonistic or indifferent attitudes.

I believe America does far more good in the world than bad – even in those countries where anti-Americanism is still at its strongest. But as is always the case, when hard power is used overwhelmingly, it gives people something easy to hate.

 

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