(This post is written for alumni of LEAD 365, although all are welcome to read it.)
In Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he lists five characteristics of a dysfunctional team. One of those five is “the lack of commitment.” When people have not had the opportunity to air their opinion or challenge others, they often do not have the buy-in necessary to move forward with the rest of the team. The important role of the leader in this—your important role—is to force clarity and closure. Let’s talk about how you can grow in this important leadership role of developing commitment.
Maybe you’ve heard about and put into practice the advice about remembering jokes. As soon as you can, repeat the joke to someone else. How about remembering names? The same advice applies: begin using that person’s name as quickly as possible after you hear it. Then there is learning new material. It has often been said that the best way to learn something is to have to turn around and teach it to others.
These things we learn about telling jokes, remembering names, and learning new things all point to an important aspect of commitment. Commitment often comes down to being clear about when team members will tell it and teach it to others. Taking the time at the close of meetings to make sure team members are very clear with what they are to share with others, when they are going to communicate it, and how (perhaps seven times, seven ways) is key to developing commitment. Those two extra minutes at the end of the meeting make all the difference in bringing clarity and closure. This is especially important when the topic is purpose, vision, or values.
There is something about saying things out loud that brings a higher level of commitment. Therefore, giving people the space to honestly, verbally speak into and even push back into a discussion is important. Also, making sure they verbally commit to specific things at the end of a conversation is also important. Finally, make sure that there are definite plans for team members to verbally and repeatedly express to others what was talked about and agreed to adds a third crucial layer for developing commitment.
Every summer when I am in the Adirondacks I go cliff jumping at a place called Calf’s Pen on Lake George. The tallest cliff there is 45 feet. It is a popular destination on the lake—and a dangerous one. The most important piece of advice I give the would-be jumpers is this: commit to your jump. Those who hesitate because of last-second thoughts and fears jump without conviction, are they are the ones who get hurt. Commitment actually brings safety to the jump. Is committing to the jump dangerous? Probably a little. It’s just that lacking commitment is far more dangerous. (See if you can find me in the picture!)
Commitment brings security. It takes mental toughness to have the challenging conversations and to make sure that things are expressed verbally and repeatedly, but in the end it is the safest way to move forward with the right steps.
In LEAD 365 we teach an important segment on vision. In that segment there are a series of slides that move from having no vision, to having a newly established vision, to having greater clarity around that vision, to having full buy-in to the vision. (Remember the arrows that begin pointing in different directions and then in the end all point in the direction of the vision?) Too many leaders stop with simply having a newly established vision. If the arrows that represent people in the organization are going to begin pointing in the same direction, commitment is what is going to make the difference.
One more thing: When team members demonstrate commitment, it should be celebrated. Demonstrated commitment in the form of actions and words represent a great “bright spot” (for those of you who have read Switch). And if we want greater levels of commitment, we need to remember that we are what we celebrate.