Compelling – A Word All Leaders Must Fully Understand

The Ability To Inspire Others Is One Difference Between A Manager And A Leader.

By Steve Schumacher

Over my decades of consulting and coaching bosses in business I have worked with all types of personalities with various strengths and weaknesses. There have been different terms for those bosses – supervisor, manager, director, vice-president, general manager, etc. 

In most cases, regardless of the title, a boss has employees that report to them and the boss is responsible for the performance of one or more employees. Simply because a manager has people that report to them, it does not make that manager a leader. In most cases, a leader has management skills, but a manager may not have leadership skills.

One of the main things that separate a leader from a manager is the ability to be compelling. To be clear, compelling is not forcing or coercing others toward a specific course of action. It is not pleading, begging, or making someone feel sorry for you. Compelling is grabbing the emotions of others and truly motivating them to get on board on their own free well. Being able to get people emotionally invested in something. Here are a few areas where, to be a true leader, you must be compelling.

Create a compelling vision of your business/mission/values. Over my career I have seen, more times than I care to count, the proverbial “flavor of the month” program. We all know what that is, right? One of the executives decided on a new program to be rolled out to all employees. Many times, the program has some catchy name or acronym. 

As the rollout occurs, everyone plays their part, nods politely, and carries on with their work knowing this will not last. To get people truly on board and make involvement and buy-in compelling, a leader must reach out to all employees first and gain their involvement in creating the vision from the start. People tend to not disagree with things they help create. 

Get employees from all levels involved in monitoring the rollout and implementation of the vision. Buy-in comes from trust and trust comes from involvement and asking questions.

Compelling training. Too many companies come up with one training model and use it for every training session. However, research shows that most people have a particular learning style that suits them best. Some listen to learn, others read or need videos, and some prefer figuring it out themselves. 

When those individual learning styles are not met in training, the participants are not engaged, resulting in a lot of time and money spent for nothing. To engage participants in training and make it compelling, first do an inventory of learning styles of all participants. As you design the training, do your best to incorporate all the learning styles in the finished product. Use trainers and facilitators that understand learning styles and know how to involve people throughout the session. Get participants involved prior to the session to set expectations and follow-up with them after the training session for feedback.

Compelling performance reviews. Most performance reviews are very difficult for both the boss and the employee being reviewed. The boss does not know how to give feedback properly and the employees does not feel good being evaluated. And how does anybody understand the corporate rating scale to determine raises? 

Clearly, there is only so much a leader can do with making a corporate-driven performance review compelling. A leader can ask the employee to do their own evaluation prior to the face-to-face review and take it sincerely into account. 

Also, ask the employee to evaluate how well you, as the leader, are giving the employee the tools they need to do their job well. The main area you have to make this experience compelling is in goal-setting for the next performance period. Collaborate with the employee on goals. Do not simply impose goals on them. Use the SMART method – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant-Time bound – to make goals compelling.

Making your feedback compelling. In order to get employees to act on the feedback you give them, it must grab them as compelling, and drives them to action. Make the feedback specific and behavioral when it is positive and give a suggestion for improvement when you give negative feedback. In addition, giving feedback in a ratio of four positives to one negative will make it compelling.

In summary, if you want to truly become a leader that inspires people and gets them to follow you willingly, work on your ability to be compelling in the workplace.


Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected]

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