Team Commitment

The “ideal team,” held up as a model in best-selling business books and articles, is a rare occurrence in organizations today. The establishment of teams is often approached as a simple reorganization: remove several layers of management, organize a group of people around a task, throw some training at them, and call them a team. The result is often confusion, resentment, and frustration rather than synergy and employee satisfaction.

The fact is that most employees don’t know how to be effective team players, and the managers (or team leaders) in most organizations don’t know how to help them. While many organizations are achieving improved results by retooling their business processes and removing steps that don’t add value, they are not realizing the potential that is truly available to them.

The real promise of teams lies in the hearts of the team members themselves. Real magic is possible when team members take ownership for the team and its results. High-performing teams are only possible when the members care deeply about one another and the team as a whole. This kind of intense commitment and willingness to “do what it takes” is not something that you can demand or expect from employees by simply making a structural shift to teams. It requires a significant change in personal work behaviors and beliefs about work. The change can be characterized as a shift from work based on agreement to work based on commitment. Agreement is, “I’ll go along with that.” Commitment is, “I’ll do whatever it takes.” How do you nurture the kind of commitment that produces exceptional performance in teams?

Where To Start:

  • There are no shortcuts to commitment. Commitment begins with participation and requires a shift in attitude. Ensure that your work and decision-making processes are designed to allow and encourage participation. Establish the expectation that team members will participate. Silently sitting on the sidelines doesn’t generate commitment.
  • Behavior change precedes attitude change. Create a clear understanding about what committed behavior looks like, and set the expectation that we will work together with those behaviors as ground rules. Acting as if we’re committed often produces dramatic results that demonstrate the value of becoming committed. The “evidence” produced by the results causes a change of attitude.
  • Communicating: The “what” comes down-the “how” comes up. When you tell a team what to do and how to do it, they will usually “do your task your way.” However, it will clearly be your task, and that is the problem. The team will only put their heart and soul into a task when it’s their own. A better approach is for the organization’s leadership to set clear direction and expectations-the “what”-and to ask the team to determine “how” to achieve the results. This involvement in determining how we will get the results makes it “ours.”
  • Establish measures. What gets measured, gets done. If it’s truly important to do, we need to ensure that it’s happening. The only way to determine if it’s happening is to decide what success will look like and how we’ll measure it. Appropriate measures minimize subjective evaluation and give the team the opportunity to truly control results through their efforts.
  • Commit to a vision. According to the English poet, Matthew Arnold, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Creating a common view of our desired outcome is a powerful motivating force. An exciting vision of what can be if we create it together has a tremendous effect on motivating individuals and the team as a whole. A vision answers questions about “what we’re trying to accomplish” and “why.”

What Commitment Looks Like:

  • Staking your reputation on the action plan
  • No lingering doubts
  • No looking back
  • No contrary thoughts
  • Expectation of winning
  • Nothing is left undone
  • Passionate protection of outcomes
  • Intense loyalty

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