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Keep Doing What You’re Doing, Ben! Union Steward (Leadership Skills in Action)

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Someone Left Commitment Out in the Rain

Truly committed individual running in the rain

The call came in just after 8am Eastern Time:

“Don’t worry, we are rowing in [to work].”
“You are doing what?”
“Houston is completely flooded.”
“I know, but is it safe? We can…”
“We are fine. Don’t worry. We’ll make it in and we’ll be operational.”

Rowing to Work Fully Committed Workforce

Now that’s what I call dedication. People completely committed to the job. The story comes from my daughter. She couldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t be deterred!

Who doesn’t want a team like that? Of course anyone would, but…

Commitment doesn’t rank.

The annual Conference Board surveys, ranking what CEOs consider to be their biggest challenges, consistently show innovation and human capital in the top 5. Human capital includes such things as retention, engagement, training, performance management, and leadership development. Commitment is not one of their concerns and has not shown up in the last 4 surveys.

Yet, commitment is the defining characteristic of a Superstar employee. Understanding its importance is critical to your success as a leader of people.

You want committed people because they are self-directed, self-motivated, and self-managed. Their commitment drives them to figure out what they need and then to go get it. Whatever it is doesn’t matter – whether they need more knowledge, better tools, a better strategy, or access to different people — committed people will acquire it without fail, on their own or in collaboration with someone who feels the same level of commitment.

They do whatever it takes to achieve corporate goals – including organizing boats to get to work in a flood. And if you think about top performers in your group or elsewhere, this describes how they operate.

Then there are the others – mediocre performers – the ones you think are lazy, don’t know their job and often need to be told what to do.

Why is one person seemingly more committed than another?

Well, the cliché holds true: No one washes a rental car. We all know this and we all know that almost everyone washes their own car with some ensuring it gleams.

The difference is pretty clear. We are committed to making our car look good because we own it. When we don’t own it, more than likely we will not show it the care it needs! We push the responsibility off to someone else and generally are not concerned.

Thus, ownership begets commitment and commitment causes us to willingly and enthusiastically expend whatever energy and resources are necessary to “take care” of what is ours.

The rule is: in order for a person to be committed to anything, he or she must have actual ownership of it or at the very least feel a strong sense of ownership.

If someone seems less committed, check his/her ownership.

Guess what? Management has the power to create highly committed employees.

A strong sense of ownership comes from being able to influence everything about whatever we are engaged in doing. Influence in the workplace means having:

  • Reasonable control over our actions,
  • Timely knowledge of anything and everything that might affect our work, and
  • The ability to influence anything that might affect our work, before it happens.

As the boss, you control resources and information, which means you are the only one who can grant influence. Thus, you are in control of the level of commitment.

Now, if you are in any way unwilling to give employees the ability to influence everything associated with doing their job – like say you hold back information from time to time or make 11th hour non-emergency decisions – the result is diminished commitment or lack of it.

Influence begets ownership, and ownership leads to commitment.

It’s that simple.

The choice is yours.

I say…

Put commitment on the top of your list of objectives!

This is part 3 of our 2015 Summer Leadership Training Mini-Series – dispelling major misconceptions about leadership so you don’t get tripped up and kill performance, unknowingly.

Part 1- The Biggest Mistake Managers Make
Part 2 – A Million Dollar Question. How Do I Motivate My People?

Check those out if you missed them. Next up is Innovation!

If you have any questions, Ask Ben.

And please share this with anyone you think may benefit…keep friends, family and colleagues from getting tripped up on the importance of commitment.

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A Million Dollar Question: How Do I Motivate My People?

Million Dollar Leadership Development Question About Motivation

If ever there was a million dollar question, this is it.

How do I motivate my people?

Clearly we all wish that all the people working for us were energetically and diligently figuring out how to do better every day, both on the job and off the job. We want 110% put forth with the best interests of the company on the top of everyone’s mind.

So you must get out there and “motivate your people to do more, better!”


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About Ben Simonton

Ben Simonton Ben managed diverse groups for 34+ years, including as an executive in charge of a 1,300 person unionized organization. He made all the managing mistakes one can make, then devised solutions for 99.9% of people management issues. Ben knows leadership inside and out.


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