Who’s got commitment issues?
Commitment is one of the five key behaviours needed for business leaders to build a high-performing and cohesive team.
Patrick Lencioni said it best: “Commitment is about a group of intelligent, driven individuals buying into a decision precisely when they don’t naturally agree. In other words, it’s the ability to defy a lack of consensus.”
It’s a great quote, although I did find myself reading it a couple of times to truly understand it’s meaning. Put simply, he is acknowledging that teams often disagree when making decisions about important issues. That’s nothing new - I’m sure everyone has experienced it. But he’s also acknowledging that team members can still commit to a decision, even if they don’t agree with it.
That, right there, is true commitment. Because that’s the space where each and every member of that team knows that the decision will take them closer to their goal.
Commitment is the third level of five key behaviours that are critical to building a high-performing and cohesive team. Providing that a team has a foundation of vulnerability-based trust, and they have mastered the ability to engage in healthy conflict, commitment is the natural next step.
It’s worth noting that commitment won’t automatically lead to unanimous decision-making across the board. But the decisions your team makes will be better.
So, how exactly do you gain team commitment, even when some team members don’t see eye-to-eye?
1. Get all team members engaged
It can be deeply frustrating as a leader, when a team member doesn’t speak up during a meeting, only to air their negative views loud and clear afterwards. You just want to shake them and say “well why didn’t you say anything?” But it’s not uncommon for people who disagree to stay quiet. You shouldn’t take silence to mean that they agree with the outcome of the meeting.
As a leader, you should make sure that everyone present has their say, and contributes to the discussion. You need to empower your people to speak freely. Give everyone a voice and encourage them to share their opinion. We use the term ‘airtime’ in our meetings and everyone is really clear about what that stands for.
2. Ask for supporting evidence
Conversations can become much more productive when team members can provide factual data to support their argument. Facts, research, stats - this is the kind of data we’re talking about. It removes the potential for fiction in the debate and helps to drive commitment.
3. Don’t look for unanimous agreement
Sometimes teams will come to a natural consensus, and sometimes you’ll never get there. That’s life guys. But If you’re always waiting for everyone to agree, you can be waiting a long time. And the resulting decision might be mutually disagreeable anyway. Not great.
The objective should be to get everyone to agree to take action, regardless of whether they agree with the actual decision itself. But they can only do this if they’ve been an active part of the discussion and know that their views have been not only heard, but considered. Remember, this is about team commitment, not team consensus.
4. Disagree and commit
This is an acknowledged management principle which originated from former Intel CEO, Andrew Grove. He said: “If you disagree with an idea, you work especially hard to implement it well because that way, when it fails, you’ll know it was a bad idea, not bad execution.”There are two objectives; to encourage the team to disagree when making a decision (seems backwards, but stick with me), and to unite the team in committing to the decision once it’s been made.This supports Patrick Lencioni’s view about team commitment. If every member of the team has the opportunity to share their opinion and be considered, they can accept the decision and do whatever it takes to implement it.
5. Encourage healthy conflict
As I’ve already mentioned, commitment stems from the ability to engage in healthy conflict. In fact, I wrote a blog all about finding harmony in conflict.
Healthy conflict is constructive, rather than destructive debate. It’s all about agreeing on conflict norms and behaviours that allow people to share diverse opinions in a safe space, in order to make greater progress and ensure team commitment. You see how one fits into the other?
For leaders, it’s about stimulating the debate, keeping the conversation out of the personal zone, asking the right questions to extract the right information and encouraging your team to make a effort to understand one another’s views.
The next step? Hold each other accountable.
Once your team has made a decision about an important issue, responsibility lies with all of you to share the details with the wider organisation and drive that outcome forward. Agree on a consistent message so that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
Team members can still commit to a decision, even if they don’t agree with it.