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When it comes to giving orders, nobody particularly likes being the bearer of bad news or the "bad guy" elected as the messenger. But it's your responsibility as a leader to communicate and influence — to foster a culture of collaboration.

When people work well together and share ideas, they achieve better results. This translates to better processes, productivity, and performance, which, in turn, promotes a better customer experience. 

There are many ways to encourage collaboration, but only a few ways to do it effectively. I speak with organizations all the time that struggle with getting buy-in from their people (team members and customers alike). More often than not, it's because their approach, while usually well-intentioned, delivers the wrong message. 

business collaboration

We create rules, policies, procedures, and programs without ever considering how we'll get people to adopt them. 

Here's the thing: Forced compliance is NOT the same as willing cooperation. 

Actually, forced compliance is the worst type of cooperation.

When you approach your customers with a spirit of collaboration, you unlock a world of possibilities that aren't achievable through coercion. In addition, team members who willingly cooperate are actively engaged, invested in the collective vision, and committed to contributing their unique skills and perspectives.

On the flip side, forced compliance leads to resentment. When people feel like they're being steamrolled or treated like mere numbers, they're far less likely to remain loyal and engaged.

When you force people to comply with a set of rules, the best you'll ever get from them is the bare minimum.


I know, I know; there will always be certain non-negotiable policies and procedures that your people must adhere to. But what if, instead, you invited them to be active participants in the process rather than passive recipients of your directives?

A true culture of collaboration is built across every touchpoint in your people, your places, and your processes. Look at what these elements say to not only your customers but to your team, as well. 

PEOPLE: Using a pleasant, non-confrontational tone, simply ask for cooperation. 

  •  "Could you help me out…"
  • "Can I ask you to please…"
  • "Would you mind…"

PLACES: Create a welcoming environment that appeals to your customers and team members.

  • Polite, professional signage
  • Visually appealing environment (e.g., lighting, sound, temperature)
  • Upbeat and happy employees

PROCESSES: Designed with humans in mind, you present a unified, well-developed front.

  • Clear, preset expectations
  • Proactive and pleasant greeters 
  • Helpful guidance available at every stage

"It's my way or the highway." vs. "We're in this together."

As with most leadership and service principles, we can tie success back to motivation. Forced compliance relies on external factors, such as threats or punishments, to drive behavior. Cooperation is earned. When people feel empowered, respected, and trusted, they're far more likely to embrace their roles and responsibilities with enthusiasm.

Even better, when you foster a culture of willing cooperation, you're not just improving customer satisfaction; you're also laying the foundation for long-term relationships. Your customers will feel heard, respected, and valued, and in turn, they'll be more inclined to champion your brand, provide valuable feedback, and follow your rules. And your team? Well, you get the point. 

I'll leave you with this: Your role as a leader is not to command and control, but to inspire and empower. Think about how those around you might receive your thoughts, actions, and words. Do your interactions suggest compliance or cooperation? 

If you think they could use some refinement, ask around. When you do, I bet you will find that your colleagues and your customers will be more than willing to collaborate to create a more cohesive environment. 


Want to be more EFFECTIVE? Follow us on the journey:

Mike Donnelly is a recognized expert, keynote speaker, facilitator and consultant in customer service and leadership development. Leveraging 20+ years of experience from The Walt Disney Company, he and his team help destination location clients and clients in various customer-facing industries create customer loyalty to achieve positive business results. Learn more at


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