The Value of Commitment

One of the lessons I have learned from high performing people and teams is that Commitment trumps Conditions. People who are truly devoted to achieving something seem to find a way to success, regardless of the obstacle-filled circumstances popping up in front of them.

However simple compliance seldom, if ever, wins the day over tough conditions. That is probably because there is too much time spent whining and complaining, vs. working through the barriers at hand.

A hallmark of a great leader is that s/he inspires commitment from others to some kind of cause or goal. When committed, those people have willingly invested themselves in the desired outcomes and the hard work of the challenge they are facing. The shorthand definition is they “want to struggle” for the end result they are pursuing.

Without leadership, a culture of compliance is often the default position. People do the work, because they have to, not because they want to. Relationships become very transactional. “You do this job and I will pay you this much. Get your work done, follow the rules, and you will likely be able to stick around.”
This is not the breeding ground for super productive, highly engaged, stellar performing people. That is one reason genuine leadership is so vital for organizations of all kinds today, whether business, non-profit, government or whatever. Ongoing success can only come from people who deeply care about what they are doing and those whom they are serving.

Listen and you can likely get some telling clues as to whether people feel committed or are simply complying. Comments from deeply committed people may sound like:
• We are doing some very cool and really meaningful things.
• There is no problem we cannot solve
• I love my work

There are a host of responses such as these. Hopefully you are hearing many, and even uttering a few of them yourself.

People who are mainly complying send a different kind of message, such as:
• You told me to do it this way, it is not my fault it did not work
• That work is outside my job description
• Finished or not, I am out of here at 5

There is a stark difference, isn’t there. And because work is so hard and demanding these days, compliant, perhaps even complacent behaviors are just not enough.

Now here is the kicker. I have worked with a number of institutions who are in very deeply regulated, compliance- based industries, such as government, law enforcement, or banking. And guess what… I have found deeply committed people within all. This brings me to another lesson I have learned: conditions do not create compliant behaviors, poor leadership does.

Just to be clear, committed people of course fully comply with rules, safety standards, excessive federal regulations and the like. And yes, they have even been known to vent about them on occasions. However, those who are committed do not use those constraints as excuses, or let them get in the way. They find ways to keep moving ahead toward achieving the goal.

Every day new problems arise, which have no clear and defined answers. Those solutions will only come from devoted people who possess the strength, desire, and resilience to find the finish line. When peoples’ work consists mostly of doing what the boss says, in order to get a paycheck, you will find a lack of genuine passion, accountability, and outcome-focus. The focus, instead, will be on the amount of work always needing to be done, management’s shortcomings, unfairness inside and outside of the company, and other frustrations. It is a shame that more effort is put forth in developing new and innovative reasons to whine and complain, than on problem solving or breakthrough thinking.

Leaders, it is your job to inspire people and keep them committed to the struggles facing the organization. And that is no easy task. Here is a suggestion or two which may help. Continue to help people discover the connection between what they do and its importance to others. Help them see and believe that they and their work matter! Help them find a reason to care. How interesting it is to find those simply complying at work, who are somehow deeply committed to a local non-profit, the school system, or the wildly fulfilling hobby outside of work.

People do have the capability for commitment, and usually show up for work on the first day enthused and engaged. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm and commitment can soon become emotionless, mechanical activity through the absence of inspiring leadership.

Perhaps you have heard that wonderful expression: “brick walls are there for a reason – to show us how badly we want something.” You will never feel that way, if you are not “all in” on a goal. If you are simply complying with the orders of bosses, you will only see the wall as another roadblock in place to derail you. Leading others to defeat the brick wall is always a struggle, but never forget how immensely rewarding it is when you are successful.

Be well and Lead On.

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