In Part One, we looked at coaching confidence, which is the foundational building block of all leadership and influence. Now, we will discuss the second of the Seven Influence Traits™.
The Greatest Generation
There may never have been a generation when the ratio of honorable, committed men and women to slackers was higher than the generation born between 1914 and 1929. These were the people that grew up during the Great Depression. The men fought and served during a World War. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears.
During World War II, these men and women learned to focus and to remain committed to the objective at hand and not give up until that objective and the mission as a whole was accomplished. When the War ended and these soldiers returned home, they carried this same commitment over to the world of work. They didn’t fall into the trap that Mike Rowe has been pointing out as dangerous—thinking you need to find “your passion” to be happy. They could find happiness in any job they did, because they weren’t solely working for personal, self-fulfillment; they labored for a bigger purpose: to give their families the financial security they hadn’t enjoyed growing up.
They understood one thing very well: COMMITMENT.
The Situation Today
Today, among many (not all) young leaders, we see a commitment deficit. If something gets too difficult, we see leaders simply shift companies due to a degree of mobility that wasn’t available to our grandfathers and grandmothers. There is a degree of stick-to-it-ness missing in many facets of today’s culture. We are quicker to bail on anything difficult. A comfort-at-all-costs mentality pervades much of our thinking. This is highly evident in the difference of the American people’s attitude toward loss in war. Wars are horrific. Yet, in history, wars happen. In the Greatest Generation, Americans lost 185,924 in the European Theater. This was a war declared on Germany, who, unlike Japan, had not directly attacked the US. In the Afghanistan war, America has lost 2,326 soldiers in actively fighting an enemy who directly attacked us on 9/11. While the merits of this later war can be debated endlessly, one thing is obvious. America grew tired of war much more quickly than the Great Generation. One key difference can be tied to our attitudes toward commitment.
"There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results."
Kenneth H. Blanchard
How to Coach Others Towards Greater Commitment
1. Help them get over a fear of choosing.
We live in an age of unprecedented options. From a million different restaurants to 300+ channels on TV, the vast array of options can lead to a certain paralysis in decision making. We are in a day and age where “keeping your options open” is a value and battle cry. Research is showing even making plans for the weekend creates stress for many people because they fear committing to any group or event. The root of this fear? “What if a better option comes along? I’ll be in a stressful situation where I have to attend something that I really wanted to do until something better came along.”
Part of coaching the emerging leader is to help them understand a decision IS eliminating all options down to one. We should be doing this in marriage and many other areas of life. The peripheral vision of “but what if” reduces our joy in the moment, our desire to act, and most importantly, our ability to accomplish the objective.
One way to coach this is to walk leaders through the exercise of how two very different decisions can both result in positive outcomes. Often, it is not the decision that carries with it success or not, but the tenacity in which a decision is carried out. By showing, through visualization, how two different decisions can be successful if carried out, it helps remove your client’s fear that they’ll make the wrong decision.
Interestingly enough, in countries with arranged marriages, surveys show a similar happiness in marriage score and a lessened divorce rate than in those countries that offer marriage by the individual’s choice. While I am not advocating we all move to arranged marriages, it DOES show that carrying out the decision is key. The choice has been made for the marriage partner in an arranged marriage. It is now time to make that choice work.
Many of the best leaders I see are able to make a decision with less information at hand than less experienced leaders. Once an experienced leader gets 70% of the information at hand, they often move to decision. A less experienced leader loses momentum through analysis paralysis.
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Always ineffectiveness.” W.H. Murray, The Story of Everest
2. Help them understand the difference between commitment and compliance.
In days gone by, leaders were encouraged to achieve results through people by controlling their performance. They were encouraged to write enough policies, make enough rules, invoke enough rewards and punishments, solve everything for everyone, practice rigorous oversight, and critically appraise performance, in order to direct people to a level of satisfactory performance.
But by nature, commitment is self-determined. Compliance is NOT the same as commitment. The committed will continue to do what they do void of external pressure or constraint.
According to commitment researchers Coe, Zehnder and Kinlaw, an environment of commitment is fostered when the individual:
- Is clear about core values and performance goals.
- Has influence over what they do and how they do it.
- Possesses the competencies to perform the jobs that are expected of them.
- Is appreciated for their performance.
As we coach and consult with leaders, we need to see if they clearly feel they have clarity on the four commitment points above. We also need to help them survey those they lead to see if they, the leader, are empowering people in this way. Then coaching can be applied to help them grow and improve. This can include increasing competency, learning to appreciate others, more clearly defining values and performance goals, etc.
In this way, you will be helping the leaders you coach and consult to build committed teams. Characteristics of a committed team include:
- Being focused.
- Looking forward to going to work.
- Caring about results and how well the team did.
- Taking it quite personally when the team did not meet its goals.
- Making personal sacrifices to make sure the team succeeded.
- Being determined to succeed.
- Never giving up.
This is the type of team in which most of us would love to be involved.
You, The Commitment Coach
Coaching towards greater commitment is a key component to address, whether you are a leadership coach, business consultant, life coach, or leadership consultant. Commitment, like each of the Seven Influence Traits™, can be coached. Each of the influence traits provides you an area in which to grow your client’s influence. For more resources on coaching towards commitment or coaching for improvement in the Seven Influence Traits™, visit Karen-Keller.com.