No stories, no escape hatch

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“Commitment is an act, not a word”

Over past weeks I’ve had occasion to think about the above quote from twentieth century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. On a number of occasions recently people have committed to do something only to fail to deliver what was agreed.

After letting things percolate for a while I came to regard this lack of commitment as a temporary blip, just a few events happening around the same time. I have developed three hypotheses which I will aim to resolve in the weeks ahead. They are:

  • People are using this word as part of colloquial language without really understanding what commitment means, and the implications that making a commitment places on all those involved
  • Is there is some link between the fast pace at which business and life move and people making commitments without fully thinking through the options available, or what implications can eventuate from making the decision to commit to do something?
  • It’s a values shift: people will “commit” but should a better option come along they feel it’s OK to break the commitment.

For me and the bulk of my generation, commitment is binary; you either commit or you don’t. A younger colleague expressed it as “commitment is a choice, it’s that simple; no more stories, no more side stepping or escape hatches, you do what you say you will.”

I am seeing a lot of ‘best intentions’ meaning people will give it their best effort, however if the desired outcomes are not achieved then so be it. This often ends in frustration, not to mention the loss of motivation and disenchantment, because best intentions nearly always result in sub-optimal outcomes.

Having thought about this further, here’s my checklist I have developed for myself when people are moving towards making a commitment:

  • Does everyone involved understand what making commitment means, within the context in which we are operating?
  • Have we reached clear agreement with everyone involved about what we are committing to do or deliver?
  • Have we agreed measures that are clear to everyone that commitments are to be kept?
  • Is everyone aware of the implications, both positive and negative, if the commitments that are being made are not kept?
  • Do all people involved have all they need to honour their commitment?
  • Once committed will people meet their commitments no matter what the challenges?

I’m still not clear yet whether any of my earlier hypotheses are correct. However, what I am committed to do is to continue to observe what is going on around me to better understand this apparent pervasive lack of commitment.

I will leave you with a quote from Ken Blanchard, author of the One Minute Manager series of books:

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results.”

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.