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Commitment: The Leader Matters

When looking at team members’ various levels of commitment, we typically view them through a lens where they are solely responsible for being committed to their role, task, or employment in general. What we tend to forget, however, is the leader’s role and responsibility in all that. As with most areas of a business, the leader matters. Highly engaged and effective leaders produce highly engaged and effective team members, and those who struggle do not. We have seen this repeatedly in various industries. The leader matters most. And when looking at the levels of commitment within your team, you need to start by looking in the mirror.

In Gapology, we share a tool we call the Commitment Ladder. It is a simple tool that breaks down commitment into five specific steps:

  • Non-Compliant. This team member is disconnected from the feeling of responsibility and should be immediately moved up or off the team.

  • Grudgingly Compliant. This team member does the bare minimum to keep his or her job but is often seen complaining about it behind the leader’s back. This person also needs to move up or out.

  • Formally Compliant. This team member does exactly what is being asked and produces results. They don’t go above and beyond. It is typical for most teams to have many people at this level, but leaders should provide additional growth opportunities and strong leadership to help them move up or excel in their roles.

  • Genuinely Compliant. This is a team member who goes above and beyond, producing more than what is expected. They may occasionally be in the top-performing group and can inspire others. These people should be recognized frequently and challenged where appropriate to help them continue to be inspired and developed.

  • Committed. This team member is fully engaged and connected with the expectations. They will be seen by others as leaders and top performers and tend to be extremely innovative. These people should be recognized and viewed as examples of what is possible. This is where the leader needs to live.

The Commitment Ladder can be used in multiple ways. Certainly, it can be leveraged to measure team members’ commitment to initiatives, projects, or roles in general. Still, it can also be used proactively when defining your efforts to move team members up the ladder around your top priorities, specifically your Purpose and highest expectations. It is critical that your purpose is woven into the fabric of your team and should be where you see high levels of commitment, as it should be your ultimate objective. Build commitment-building activities and set expectations around your purpose to drive up engagement and connection from your team.

An important thing to consider here is your Leadership Rhythm around building commitment. The things you do and don’t do daily are contagious to your team. Be transparent. Demonstrate your own commitment. Do these things, and your team will emulate the examples you display. They see everything you do. What you say matters far less than what you display through your actions; they will follow your lead. When they don’t show commitment, start your examination by looking in that mirror. Your behaviors will become their behaviors, as they are a direct reflection of you. To have commitment from your team, become committed yourself.


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