Many leaders assume their managers automatically will commit to their initiative, direction or strategy. They believe they should not have to ask for their managers’ commitment.
They come from a school of thought that says that managers are obliged to align when their boss asks for it. It’s a belief to the effect of, “We shouldn’t have to beg you to get on board. This is your job. That’s what you are paid to do. This isn’t a democracy. As soon as you understand the rationale and valid business reasons for this initiative, direction or strategy, you should be fully behind it, driving it.” This attitude and assumptions are unfounded, incorrect and dangerous. It often stems from the misunderstanding that compliance is the same as, or similar to commitment. It isn’t.
Let’s be clear, low levels of commitment do not mean that people won’t do their jobs. When people are afraid of being fired because of low performance they tend to do what it takes to keep their jobs. Plus, from a less cynical viewpoint, most people are proficient enough at their jobs to perform them without needing to apply their full passion, dedication, intelligence, and commitment. We can assume the pyramids were not built by what anyone would call an enthusiastic workforce. Therefore, in most cases, lukewarm organizational commitment to a strategy or initiative will not inherently guarantee its failure.
But true commitment goes far beyond compliance. When managers are committed, they behave differently in fundamental ways:
- They invest their hearts and souls in the cause
- They perform their roles with passion and energy
- They take on bold promises and commitments
- They follow through with extraordinary levels of tenacity and perseverance; they don’t give up
- They look out for opportunities to improve, fix and perfect things
- They genuinely care for others who are on the journey with them
- They ignite their people to operate at the same level.
A committed organization is one whose managers and employees work harder to accomplish their tasks. It’s a place where people anticipate problems and resolve them early before they fester. Excuses are not tolerated – only answers and actions to how problems are going to be fixed. People love coming to work. They’re more productive, creative, attentive and aware.
Contrast that with an environment of compliance, where people don’t take the new initiatives to heart. They don’t ache for it or want it in their gut. If the initiative fails, they don’t lose sleep over it. In fact, they brush it off as someone else’s fault. Because they don’t view the game as their own, they avoid expressing their views including when they feel things are not working the way they should. And, if things fail they have no problem taking out the “I told you so” card. They detach themselves emotionally from its success or failure, and by making few or no guarantees to deliver specific outcomes, they are less likely to see a personal role in making the initiatives happen.
If you wanted to join a team, which of the two would you want to be a part of?