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The Commitment Ladder: Connection Series

Our team connects with us and the things we are asking them to do at varying levels. This connection drives their commitment level, which drives their overall engagement. Our responsibility as their leader is to understand this to provide the things they require that keep them committed. Most leaders don’t consider their role in this process and assign the blame for any lack of commitment to the team member. Make no mistake. We own this. We own providing the environment and culture to create commitment, and this begins by understanding the team as a whole and then digging into the individuals where we can to provide them with what they need.

Building connection methods into our Leadership Rhythm is the first thing to do as we begin intentionally structuring methods to drive commitment. Looking at when and how we connect with them can give a consistency that they can begin to count on, and through that, we will establish trust. Trust is the foundation of connection. Without it, there is no connection. Without connection, there is no commitment.

Let’s look at the commitment levels we describe in Gapology. We call this The Commitment Ladder. As we review this, keep in mind that when leaders lack connection, they produce team members who lack commitment.

  • Non-Compliant: At this level, the team member is a performance issue. They don’t believe in what you are asking them to do and don’t execute the expected steps. This person is very easy to identify when reviewing results and must be addressed as quickly as possible. Your leadership here is on display, and others will be looking to see the action you take. Without action, your reputation and any trust you are trying to build will be at risk. Begin by examining your level of connection with them. This is a direct reflection of your behaviors as a leader.

  • Grudgingly Compliant: At this level, the team member is typically saying the right things to you and even performing when you are around, but they only do it because they have to and likely complain to others. This person can be very cancerous to the culture and the team as a whole and must be identified and responded to quickly. Again, look to your team members’ results as an indicator here. A grudgingly compliant individual will never consistently perform to the same level as those further up the Commitment Ladder. If you have team members who have been identified at this level, you must look in the mirror at the connection you are creating with the team members.

  • Formally Compliant: The team member does what is asked, how it is asked, and when it is asked. They are a good soldier that you can count on to deliver overall. When you ask them to work from 8 am to 5 pm, they work from 8 am to 5 pm, but no more. They don’t go beyond what they are being asked. Some of these people on your team are acceptable, but look for opportunities to move them up the ladder, or your overall results will be mediocre.

  • Genuinely Compliant: The team member goes beyond what is being asked at this level. They will take what you set as an expectation and perform at a higher level. They push performance to new heights and may even ask for additional things to do that fit within their normal scope of responsibilities. They own the purpose, the things that are important to your organization. They don’t need constant direction, they know how to win. You will want many of these people on your team as they will help move your results to the top.

  • Committed: The team member goes above and beyond, seeking creative ways to deliver the expected results. They are outliers on the team, as they will stop at nothing until they win. They write the rule book and often invent their own to produce winning results. They are a major influence on the rest of the team and can be considered leaders within their peer group. Observe them, listen to them. Model your expectations after their behaviors.These team members are needed to be a winning team overall, and they must be valued, recognized, and supported. If they don’t receive that, there is a massive risk of breaking their trust and alienating them, where their commitment level could be at risk. Without the right leadership here, you will lose connection with them, and they may drop down the Commitment Ladder and land around the Grudgingly Compliance level. Here your Leadership Rhythm is critical.

Keep in mind that commitment can be reviewed for a team member overall but also within the scope of specific initiatives or projects. You may discover they are extremely committed to one element while completely non-compliant to another. Consider this point when analyzing your team and use it accordingly.

So what elements can be built into your Leadership Rhythm?

  • First: Start by using the Commitment Ladder to identify where your team lands. This is not something to show them but rather to use for your own reflection and action.

  • Second: From your analysis, look at who is at each level and determine specific actions you can take to either move them up the ladder, off the team if necessary, or support where they are. Define the time to do so. Block it out on your calendar. If you don’t, you risk losing sight of it, and as a result, you won’t take action. This inaction is what breaks down connection and trust.

Do this today. Don’t hesitate as your team observes and analyzes your leadership behaviors daily. Show them that you value connection and seek to build trust within your team. They will be looking for it, and so should you.


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