Do you remember the winter Olympics competition called “curling“? Two team-mates take curling clubs and try to guide a huge puck across the playing surface by sweeping away the ice in front of it. Once the puck has been launched, your team is not allowed to touch it directly. The only way to influence the puck is by brushing away the ice in front of it in an attempt to create a smooth surface that invites the puck forward.
Effective leaders learn early in their careers that they can’t always directly influence the behavior of their followers. Human beings have too much mind of their own. Instead, effective leaders develop skills at creating a corporate culture that invites people forward toward the goals of the organization.
One of the key ways to do this is to make sure that the various elements of the organization are in sync with one another. Strategic leaders don’t just see individual events or components–they see “configurations” and they try to build a configuration that invites the kinds of behaviors that will lead to a desired future.
Commitment can’t be forced or extracted from people. Command and control may work to extract conformity, but in today’s volatile environment, mere conformity will not give your organization the competitive edge it needs. The only way to get commitment from your employees is when they freely give it to you and to your organization. So, your responsibility as leader is to create the environment that invites that commitment forth from people.
Here are some things to think about as you ask yourself whether your organization provides a commitment-inviting environment.
- Are people given challenging responsibilities? People thrive on genuine challenges. They stagnate when all they are trusted with are tasks that involve zero risk.
- Are your people provided the means they need to be successful? Do they have access to needed resources, finances, and training? There is nothing worse than to be given a responsibility but no resources to carry it out.
- Do your management behaviors communicate that you believe they will succeed? There is tremendous power is self-fulfilling prophecies. As you see your employees, so they shall become. If you are constantly looking over their shoulder or constantly re-possessing the task, then you are dis-empowering them and leaving them no option but to retreat back to conformity rather than commitment.
- Has your organization discovered and given honor to your employees’ deepest values? Motivation is not just about getting people to accept the company’s values–it is also all about the company helping its people to live out their values through the organization.
- Are all the elements of your organization in sync? Does your structure support your strategy? Do your HR policies lead to the development of people for the future direction of the company? Are there antiquated processes in place that no longer serve the strategy?
If any of the items listed above are not in place, then this is an indicator of some areas where you can concentrate on for improving your organization’s invitational potential.
Maybe you have some more things to add to this list. If so, please share them. What are some ways that you have found to invite commitments from your people?
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.