Are you “in” or “out”?
It’s an important question. In fact, it may be the most important question when it comes to building a high performing team. The road to success is a rocky one and rarely straight. There are twists and turns and new obstacles to overcome around every corner.
Without commitment to the mission, the best you get from individual team members is compliance – team members who will follow the plan when the path is clear, but who are quick to give up at the first real obstacle. With commitment comes a sense of ownership and a stubborn refusal to make excuses when the going gets tough.
Committed team players are proactive problem solvers, competent, act with a sense of urgency, and are engaged in the team mission. What distinguishes these team members from the others is total commitment to the mission and values of the team. They are quick to speak up and share their ideas and concerns, but when a decision is made, they commit 100%. They are the ultimate followers. They are also the ultimate leaders.
The challenge is you can’t coerce, manipulate or cajole people into committing to anything. The best you can get is compliance. You can brow-beat people to follow instructions, but you can’t get their discretionary effort that way. And you can’t build a high performing team that way. The reason is that commitment is a heart issue. Commitment comes from influence, not manipulation.
So how do you get to commitment? Start by refusing to blame the team. Take 100% Responsibility for your teams’ engagement. Own it and start working on your influence. What follows are some suggestions to get started.
Communicate a Clear Mission
You can’t commit to something if you’re unclear what you’re committing to. Effective leaders are clear about the vision and mission and don't hesitate to ask for commitment. We call this “commander’s intent”. Clarity about the mission and why that mission matters frees the team to be committed – to take the initiative and apply their creative problem-solving skills to figure out how to get there.
Model the Way
Be committed yourself. That sounds obvious, but if you're not “all in” on the mission, neither will your people. Effective leaders move with a sense of urgency that communicates the importance of the mission, and they encourage the team to do the same. Modeling the way also means leading in ways that engender trust – developing your character and being a person that people want to follow.
Engage the Heart
There’s an old adage we use at Team Trek, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The minute your people conclude you don’t care about them, your influence goes to zero. Leaders effective at gaining commitment from their people are exceptional at communicating they care. They take time to connect and build relationships. They foster trust. They recognize people, encourage the heart and practice empathy. They are genuinely interested in what people have to say, listen well, and lead by asking more questions. What’s more, they take 100% Responsibility for how their behaviors impact others.
Coach for Development
People thrive on a challenge. It’s in our DNA. The most effective leaders have honed their coaching skills and are gifted at developing people’s potential. They are passionate about developing their people. They give clear, timely feedback to help people grow. They resist the temptation to be the chief problem-solver on the team, and instead invite the team to solve their own problems. They look for opportunities to step back so others can step up.
Pay Attention to the Signs and Act
Commitment, or lack of commitment, is easy to spot if you're paying attention. When people are disengaged it shows up in attitude and behavior. Effective leaders notice and act. They ask the tough questions to understand what’s going on with their people. They refuse to tolerate disengagement, but they are also quick to look in the mirror and ask, “How am I contributing to the problem?”
Hold People Accountable
Effective leaders put the team first. They are committed to the mission and success of the team. For this reason, they aren’t shy about holding people accountable and moving someone to another role or removing non-producers from the team. Yes, they encourage the heart and coach for development. They communicate clear expectations, especially around outcomes and behaviors. But when coaching doesn’t work, they act decisively.
High performing teams made up of committed team members don’t happen by accident. They are built and require constant attention to maintain. This is the role of the leader.
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