Every leader I talk to wants to have an engaged and accountable team. The goal is valuable and admirable. Yet those words, while incredibly important, have become overused to the point where they have lost some of their meaning and power. I often frame this desire in a different way, asking leaders if they want commitment or compliance.
Again, leaders agree — they unanimously say they want commitment (and I bet you agree, too). But before we can get to the “how” to create greater commitment we must step back and determine the biggest barriers to that commitment.
The biggest barriers are all mindset-related. They all relate to a lack of belief. Here is what I mean.
Does the leader believe?
If the leader doesn’t believe deep commitment is possible, they won’t work towards it, even if they want it. Why wouldn’t a leader believe in commitment?
- They think money is the only motivator. Since most leaders can’t control the purse strings, if they believe money is the only lever for commitment, they won’t do much. Why should they?
- They think people aren’t loyal. When people read about how often people change jobs, and the challenges with turnover, the idea is reinforced. “People just aren’t loyal anymore.”
- They think their people don’t or won’t care enough. When leaders don’t see their current team as committed, they mistakenly think they don’t want to be or will never be committed. That snapshot thinking serves as “proof” that commitment, while desirable, is a pipedream.
If you are disagreeing with these points, congratulations! You have removed your mental barriers to higher levels of commitment, but your team members may have barriers, too.
Does the team member believe?
Just because people aren’t committed now, (or not committed to the level you wish they would be) doesn’t mean they couldn’t be or don’t want to be. If that gap (the one between current commitment and desire to commit) exists, what gives? Again, it is belief-based. It could be any one of the following:
- They don’t think it is possible at work. Sure, they would like to be committed to the activity they spend the most time at, but they don’t see that as even possible. After all, it is work.
- They haven’t seen it for themselves. They want to believe being committed and engaged at work is possible, but they haven’t seen any personal proof or examples of it. If the workplace they are in isn’t very committed, and their personal and family experiences don’t give them an example, how can they maintain that belief for very long?
- They want to but see nothing worth committing to. Someone can truly want to be committed at work, but not see anything at work worth being committed to or engaged by.
- Aren’t really being given the opportunity to be committed. If I want to be committed, but am treated like a number or a cog in the wheel, with no opportunity to commit at higher levels, will I?
- Leaders who don’t believe or settle for compliance. If the boss buys into the ideas on the first list, or simply settles for a command-and-control approach to leadership, it is hard, and unlikely most people will be very committed.
The good news
Yes, even after listing these barriers, there is good news here. Since all of this is mindset, when we change the way we think as a leader, it will begin to change our behavior and the belief of our team members. Commitment is powerful and worth building, but before we can get to all of the approaches that can help, we must start between our own ears. Get your mindset right and you have a chance to change the beliefs and mindset of your team.
Then and only then, can you begin to lead toward a highly committed team, rather than settling for compliance.
Kevin Eikenberry is the chief potential officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group and a multiple-time bestselling author. To learn more about how they help leaders develop their skills, including generating greater commitment, check out The Remarkable Way.