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Commitment – Without It You Loose

What makes the difference between a team that performs and one that doesn’t? Commitment; the overriding success factor. Most people working in teams would easily say that they are committed to team performance and the team. However, here are some manager comments you probably have heard before; “If anything, we have great team commitment. People understand the goals and have truly bought into that direction. It’s clear from their words and actions that they are committed and yet something is still missing. Something isn’t connecting in terms of delivering the desired results. I’m not sure what it is”. Another version goes like this; “My team is tremendously committed to each other. They are supportive, give each other great feedback and are always looking out for each other. With all this commitment I’m baffled why they aren’t getting the results we want!”

about-usTeams differ fundamentally from working groups because they require both individual and mutual team accountability. Effective teams rely on more than group discussion, debate and decision, on more than sharing information and best-practice performance standards. The essence of an effective team is common commitment. Often overlooked due to assumptions. Without it, groups actually perform as individuals; with it, they become a powerful unit of collective performance. This kind of commitment requires a purpose in which team members can believe, and “own”. However, in some cases teams appear to have a clearly defined purpose and yet do not perform to their full potential. How come? Understanding the root cause of underperformance is therefore imperative to bring about high performance and lasting change.

1. As If – the most prevailing problem in teams is the “as if syndrome”. It simply means people act ‘as if’ they are committed. On face value they seem to agree, say the right things, and even use the appropriate body language to create the impression that they are ‘committed’. It’s a ‘smoke screen’. It is the way children behave typically to obey the authority of their parents/care takers. It certainly does not represent adult behaviour. Adults simply do not behave like that. The only way to breakdown this pattern is to act on your ‘intuition’ at the time and confront the misleading behaviour, by being straightforward with the person in question. Why people act like this is not the point. The point is to expose that behaviour in the moment by confronting it and assist the person to use the adult part of their personality; the only way it will stop. That will enable genuine commitment to emerge. It’s what ‘baffles’ people’s minds when you are not aware of it.

2. More than One – There are three types of commitments in a team. When people say they are committed, it is helpful to understand to whom and to what are they committed to. The first is; Commitment to Self – this implies personal considerations are more important than the welfare of the team. A cause that usually drives this commitment is that the person automatically became part of the team due to their position, expertise and experience. People like this often act as if they are committed to the team. They comply as a result of their corporate obedience and are often quite critical of others. High ‘D/C’ people often fit into this category. The second type is; Commitment to Others – This implies the need to be accepted and approved of by others are more important considerations than delivering the task on time. High ‘I/S’ people often fit into this category. Their friendliness, support and non-confronting behaviours often keep them in a team. These are important behaviours for building & maintaining relationships. They perform the nurturing parent role in a team. The task often suffers as a result. The third type is; Commitment to the Task – This implies that these people see their work, team role as supporting valuable and important organisational pursuits. It manifests in team and organisational pride and displays a clear sense of obligation to deliver on time, every time for the greater good of all in the team. All three are important and needed in a team, in a balanced way – the job of the team leader to manage and maintain that.

3. Action Speaks Louder than Words – The truth of the matter is simply that the level of your commitment will show in everything you do as a member of a team. Put another way, its character in motion, from the smallest agreement to the most challenging demands. What captures your attention will control your commitment. It’s a case of giving the right attention to what matters in the pursuit of making the team more effective. Another way of becoming aware of how you live your commitments is to take note of the fact that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. A mundane example is agreeing to attend a meeting but simply do not show up without any apology or prior request to be excused. It’s a case of a lack of self-discipline in motion. A genuine commitment to build team effectiveness will enable you to set priorities and honour them or change them to make time for what is required. It is how you manage your values that will show up in how you execute your commitments.