Building Team CommitmentOne of the struggles Paul and I hear often when working with teams is lack of commitment. Those that are committed to the effort look at those that aren’t and just scratch their heads. Why don’t you care? Don’t you see the value in what we are doing? If you could only see it as I do, you would be committed as I am, right?!?!

That got me thinking…to what in life am I truly committed?

What makes the difference? What is the best practice out there for commitment? I came back to the strongest commitments in my life, God and my family (husband and kids).

These are wonderful things that should be easy for me to commit to, but even these areas struggle. I’ve committed to build my marriage for a lifetime because I believe we are better together (even though that’s not always how we feel), but conflict comes. There are still times where our commitment is tested, even after more than a decade together. As a mom, each moment tests my commitment, in the tantrums, sleep deprivation, screaming, etc. These people who I love so deeply still test whether I want to keep going, staying committed to the long haul.

There’s one thing that is the same in my marriage and parenting. Every time I choose to fight for us, I see growth. Every time I choose to let the connection wither, I see just that, withering.

But you say, “Well of course I commit to love my family. But how does that help me with my team?”

Relationships between people at home, in the community, and at work have the same building blocks, trust and respect. In any of these scenarios, when we choose to stay in the team and build connection, that reinforcing cycle builds commitment. When we get tired, frustrated, disillusioned, we stop building connection. Then the strong bonds fade to…just a memory. It is that simple, continue to build or let fade.

The bottom line is we have to make a choice for ourselves to stay committed. That choice to connect is the difference that overcomes many obstacles your team will face.

In your team, you that have a deep commitment to the cause and purpose of what you are doing and have a high level of passion for what you are doing (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this). You fight for it because you believe it is worthwhile. Then, there are teammates that just don’t get it like you do. They wash in and out seeming to not care at all what happens to the team or project. How dare they?!?!

Is this a symptom on your team… Lack of commitment? Lack of accountability? Lack of buy-in? What’s the deal, and how can you change their minds?

What’s the deal?

There’s a great book out there called “Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni that I think gives us insight here. A miserable job is identified as one where teammates are:

  • Anonymous: “People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority.”
  • Irrelevant: “Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.”
  • Immeasurement: “Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person.”
  • Excerpts from:

We at eNthusaProve have our own way to look at these team dynamics and give you tools to improve your team dynamics…connect, create, and contribute. (Here’s a guide describing our philosophy.)

  • Connection drives the commitment. Connection is built within the team and with the mission.
  • Creation reinforces the connection. “I can do something that makes a difference.”
  • Contributing the creation makes teammates say, “Check out what we did!” You as the Team Leader have a responsibility to tout to others “Look what my team did!”
  • …And then the team wants to do it again. This is a metric we have seen used with great success. At the conclusion of a project, teammates who want to work together again are a HUGE testament to successful team leadership

When this cycle is broken, our teams become uncommitted. There are many reasons it could be broken, and it may not be solely about this team and this project (sometimes it’s the larger culture or history of events). If you have a team member that’s seems uncommitted, look to these areas for an opportunity to make it better.

How can you change teammates minds to build commitment?

You can’t always change the commitment level of another person. What you can do is find hindrances to commitment and try to resolve them. Here’s a few ideas based on what Paul and I have seen work.

Look at how teammates are interacting with you and others and keep an eye out for these hindrances. The lack of commitment may stem from any one or multiple of these factors.

  • Connection to:
    • Purpose. We classically give the “vision” speech here to “rally the troops.” If the project isn’t something they value or see as being beneficial, it will be hard to be inspired by the vision.
      • This is often our first “go to” solution, but is often not the real issue.
      • A perception of not being inspired could be a mask for something else.
      • Keep looking and come back to this after considering other options.
    • People. Is the team able to work through the inevitable issues that arise, or is it stuffed away only to resurface again? Even if someone is committed to a cause, it could be an issue with how the team works together. This is where some focused team building seeking how to do things differently is in order.
  • Creation: Are people using their gifts to further the mission? Have you seen them do something cool/valuable for the team?
    • Does the teammate:
      • not see how their skills are useful for the project?
      • not know their gifts and what gifts they have that the team needs?
      • believe they can’t help? This could be perceived lack of knowledge or not the right kind of knowledge.
    • These factors lead to someone being uncommitted because they don’t see how the team needs them. As a team leader, look at what they can provide to the team and help them to see this too. I’ve seen a simple discussion turn someone from an outsider to carrying the banner for the team.
  • Contribution: Has their creation been worked into the project’s products?
    • Were they burned early and built a belief that nothing they make will ever see the “light of day,” so why try? This could be from earlier in your project, or a prior project. What to do?
      • Find a way to genuinely use the teammates contributions. Any amount of insincerity will make your efforts backfire. Guide them to work on something really needed that they have the skills to accomplish and help the teammate to be successful (i.e. give them a mentor, encouragement from you, proof of the need from outside the team, etc.)
    • Is the environment outside the team hostile to the team’s efforts? This could be old-fashioned peer pressure holding the teammate back from wanting to be identified with the team’s efforts.
      • Focus on building the team up within and find at least one avenue outside that needs the output of the team. (Can’t win them all, but can help this one vital piece.)

You can totally build team commitment!

I hope these suggestions illuminate reasons for the lack of commitment on your team. As I said before, we can’t always make everyone committed to a cause. Even so, there are a lot of things we CAN do to intentionally build that connection on our team. Your responsibility Team Leader, is to make the choice to build those connections, taking away barriers to connection, which in turn builds commitment. This, my friend, will enable joy in work for your team, which is your ultimate goal as a leader. It is a beautiful and rewarding thing, making you and your team say, “Let’s do this again!”

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