How to Develop & Sustain Commitment

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In a prior article we discussed what commitment was and why it is important, so here we will look at some specific techniques, tasks or ideas that will assist you in building and sustaining commitment in yourself personally or your company.

In this article, I will refer to the organization and clients quite a bit but remember there are always parallels between the processes in organizations of all sizes, even solopreneurs.

You can refresh by reading my previous article here!

Up front, I recommend that you acknowledge and learn to work within the following guidelines of commitment management:

 

  1. Commitment does not occur quickly nor spontaneously. Be patient. It will come if you give it a chance and communicate the effort and goals transparently.
  2. When dealing with a team or group of people, appreciate whatever level of commitment each individual can make. People will always have different levels of commitment based on many factors and that’s okay. Some people will have less time so they can’t get more involved but on the other hand, someone else may have more time, more interest in your goals and mission, and a greater understanding of the value of commitment than others. This latter group can be of great impact on your organization.
  3. Remember, you can always encourage people to do more. If they do, great. If they don’t, appreciate them for what they can do.
  4. Don’t use guilt or intimidation of people to get a commitment. Generally, this tactic doesn’t get the long-term results period. People want and need to feel that their contribution matters, even if it is small. If you leave them feeling that they have disappointed you, as the leader, they may not stick around much less continue to deliver.
  5. As people, we are often yearning for meaning in our lives. Solid commitments can bring that meaning when done effectively. Remember, when you ask people to commit to an effort, cause, or organization, you should be offering them something of high value.
  6. Encourage people to be intentional and proactive in creating, asking for, and tracking commitments on a regular basis. This summer a new tool will be introduced called PE-ER which will help associates and clients track how well they do on keeping their commitments. Go to Standard of Trust website to sign-up for release updates on a regular basis.

And remember: Commitment always takes time!  If it is too quick, I guarantee they don’t really understand what you are asking them to do or say and there will be disconnects.

Now with some ground rules out-of-the-way, here are some specific tasks you can use to really build and enhance your culture’s commitment drive:

First, when adding new employees, have a process for on boarding, think welcome wagon;

I have found that the earlier you engage people and make them feel genuinely welcome the faster they become fully engaged or involved. When they don’t feel accepted or welcome, they may leave or even worse they may become disruptive, i.e. disengaged.

As leaders, we should set an example by personally welcoming whoever calls, emails or walks through the door or asks about joining our team or company.  I love to ask questions and get to know them, and make them feel valued.  But how often do we ignore this simple action?  Entrepreneurs should make this standard operating procedure in all they do and say.  This also applies to customers, vendors and heaven forbid competitors.

This very simple authentic action gives people a good, positive, feeling about the relationship and encourages them to become involved, but it also provides the basis for developing an even deeper relationship that helps you function as a leader and acts to cement commitment in the future.

Simple Entrepreneurial Example:

A new client of an entrepreneurial organization dropped by the owner’s office to say hello. The owner took 45 minutes to show her around then he began asking questions to better understand her and her needs.

The results: the new client felt welcome and quickly got involved in engaging the services of the company. She became an active, committed client, and continued to be a growing client for years after. She actually became a great advocate of the products and services of the company.

Teach everyone in your organization to welcome new people and clients. Make it part of the core of your organizational culture. I highly suggest setting up a process for ensuring that people or clients are welcomed in open meetings, special events, and day to day activities. You can also set up a mentoring system for employees and clients. People in your organization will then understand that welcoming/onboarding is a job to be taken seriously.

Second: Be open, transparent and clear about your mission, principles & goals both personally and in your organization;

People always want to know what they are committing to. They want to support an organization only if they share similar principles and goals. Make sure that everyone in your organization is familiar with its mission, principles, and goals.  Make sure that alignment of mission, principles and goals are clearly articulated during the hiring process. This is critical for success.

As a leader, it is important to talk openly about why you care about these principles and goals without being dogmatic or derogatory. For example, if you are working to develop a mentor program for new leaders in your industry, talk about why that program is important to you. See if there is a resonance in the organization so that the chances of success are increased.

Talk about why you are passionate about the subject and how you focus on making improvements for all. You might also tell people how your life would have been different if someone, in your career, had not committed the necessary time and attention to you when you were a new leader.

Third: As a Leader, demonstrate and model commitment yourself;

It is no secret that everyone looks to the leader of a company or team to see if they are committed. When you genuinely care about the work, it will definitely show in your attitudes and actions. People will definitely watch to see how you act, and they will follow your lead.

People will generally use your services or work with you if they know they can count on you. On the other hand, it is more likely that you will be able to count on them, when necessary. For example, if you stay late to send out a mailing, others will be willing to do so. Yes, commitment is a positive contagious attitude.

On the flip side, when you are working so hard that you are burnt out and always unhappy, people will take notice of that too and they will shy away from following your lead or using your services.  Focus on striking a balance: know when to say no and articulate respectful reasons for the no.

It is an excellent investment to take the time to understand the people with whom you are working and openly appreciate them and their work. While some people may be surprised when you do it, everyone likes to be appreciated.  Practice the Golden Rule: Treat everyone the same way you would like to be treated by others – with respect and good humor

Teach people in your organization to notice what is going well, rather than just noticing what needs to be improved. For example, I suggest you open meetings by having each person talk about what has gone well since the last time you met, then ask about what may not have gone as well. You can also have a peer party as a way to close the meeting, here people can show appreciation to each other.

In the case of heated discussions or conflicts, make sure people continue to show respect for each other. Conflicts can be important growing periods. To ensure they are useful rather than destructive, do not let people personally attack each other. Keep discussions to the issues. If people have personal conflicts, mediate the conflict or bring in an outside person to do so.

Fourth: Engage in developing challenging learning & growth opportunities for all;

When dealing with commitments there is usually work that needs to be done on both sides of the commitment for it to be successful. If an employee, for example, shows interest in becoming more involved (committed) in your organization, don’t wait too long to give them something meaningful to do.

People want to feel that they are making a significant contribution in order to feel committed. This means that you need to find out what they are interested in doing and see if you can match their interests to some work that needs to be done.

As an entrepreneur, you can also, encourage new clients with communications that expose them to other people in the organization. That will draw them into the company sooner and more easily. This can be extremely effective as long as there is an alignment of values and goals within the organization.

People want to feel successful and they also need to stretch their abilities. Both are important. When you are first getting to know someone, try to match them with work in which you think they can achieve some success. This will help people to feel good about themselves and will encourage them to stay.

As you get to know them better, give them gradually increasing challenges. Being challenged keeps people excited about the work they are doing. Sometimes people will need encouragement to try things they have never before considered.

Quarterly, sit down and talk to people and see if there is interest in trying other jobs within the organization.  Ask them what is working well, what is not and where can the organization improve.  It is a worthwhile investment of time because they will know that you care about them and their development, not just about what they can produce for you.

(ALWAYS BUILD AN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE IN WHICH LEADERS, EMPLOYEES, CUSTOMERS, AND SUPPLIERS APPRECIATE AND RESPECT EACH OTHER!)

Fifth: Always LISTEN, LISTEN, AND LISTEN some more

Listening is a very powerful tool when done correctly and transparently. Keep in mind, when you listen to others with respect & caring, they sense that you have confidence in them and are interested in what they think. In turn, your interest and confidence encourages them to think clearly and creatively.

If you want cross-generational groups, cross-cultural groups, and cross-racial groups that are committed to your organization, listen to them. Try asking questions to share their thinking on a topic with you. The more diverse input you receive the better the potential market position you can command when they pass on the message to others regularly because they know you have listened and taken action.

Sixth: BE A LEADER GENERATOR – always look to grow new leaders

To really sustain commitment in your team or organization, look at each person as a potential leader and train them to lead. When people view themselves as a leader of a team, they will view the group as theirs. They will assume a feeling of ownership, and will be more likely to take the initiative to make sure things work well. Make sure they understand this ownership is a privilege.

Too often, we limit our definition of a leader to the people who are the senior managers of the organization and they make all the important decisions, however, I recommend you expand your definition of leadership.

For example, you can view a team leader as one of the key leaders, but the person who informally resolves conflicts is a leader also. If someone is a cheerleader for a team or group, they can also be a leader because they recharge the team by getting them laughing when the energy bogs down.  These are all performing important leadership functions.

Encourage people to help each other recognize their leadership talents, and encourage them to try them out more. Invite them to speak in public or chair a meeting. You don’t have to give people leadership titles, but sometimes it helps them to take themselves seriously.

Even though people have different levels of leadership skills, everyone can contribute something of importance. Everyone has a point of view that is valuable. Everyone has talents to share.

Finally: CELEBRATE BIG and small wins on a regular basis:

Never forget to celebrate! Any excuse will do: a victory, an organization’s anniversary, a time to give out prizes or certificates to volunteers or workers, or a cultural sharing time are all good reasons for people to get to together, relax, and enjoy each other’s company.

Make sure you are celebrating real wins, not manufactured ones.  There may be months that go by when there have been no significant wins and that can be alright. Be authentic and transparent in your recognition of wins, don’t try to fake it, you will be exposed almost immediately.

IN SUMMARY

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek. – Mario Andretti

“Commitment requires hard work in the heat of the day; it requires faithful exertion on behalf of chosen purposes and the enhancement of chosen values.” – John Gardner

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

I would love to chat with you about how you can make this a reality in your organization today.  Please feel free to check out my website at Transformative Leadership.us or call me at 630-454-4821.