CEO Coaching: 11 Steps for Building Commitment

All the leaders I’ve worked with understand that getting things done through others is their job. The most thoughtful also understand that this happens by encouraging commitment, not control.

Commitment is an emotional connection to work. Committed people are “dedicated” and “willing to go above and beyond expectations.” Leaders can count on and trust committed employees. They bring value to the company. They’re more productive than less-engaged folks. If you’re an emotionally intelligent leader, you value, respect, acknowledge, and reward your most committed people.

Years ago, when I was running a large division with 7,000 people, I traveled a lot and worked long hours. My mother-in-law used to ask, “Why do they make you work so hard?” She didn’t get that I was choosing to work hard because I was committed.

There’s a lot of data around the terms “engagement,” “happiness,” “job satisfaction,” and, if you go way back, “organizational citizenship behavior.” I prefer “commitment.” I’ve met people who were very engaged in their work but were not committed to their team or organization. Research shows that it produces better quality, productivity, and retention; more effective recruitment and innovation; higher profitability, growth, and measurable customer service; fewer accidents; and high total shareholder return. If you run an organization and that list doesn’t excite you, you have toys in your head!

So, the question numerous clients have asked me is: How do I develop commitment? My answer focuses on 11 areas of your business. Unfortunately, you can’t demand commitment; you have to foster it. Here’s what to focus on:

1.    Hiring process. Is your recruiting and hiring process focused on purpose, values, and cultural fit—or just job skill? Have you and your people been trained in behavioral interviewing? Are you continually on the lookout for good people whether there is an opening or not?

2.    Socialization/onboarding process. You have one documented, right? Focus on relationships and expectations. Here’s a previous blog on this.

3.    Purpose. It’s not just the millennials and Gen Z who care about this. The results are in. If you’re aligned with your organization’s raison d’état, you’ll be more committed. Do you have a clearly articulated purpose, and do you act on it? This piece might help.

4.    Culture. There’s way too much psychobabble about culture. Ponder this definition: the environment that’s created by the rewarded and allowed behaviors. Period. Is yours what you want it to be? (It’s the “allowed” part that often causes the most problem.) If your culture is broken, start fixing it (rewarding the right behavior and eliminating the bad) so that new hires will be attracted. Here are a few more thoughts on culture.

5.    Role clarity. Tell people how they win and what they’re accountable for. Tell them their limits of authority. And for goodness’ sake, don’t have more than one of them responsible for the same thing!

6.    Autonomy. In line with role clarity, give folks the space to do their job, within company values. Tell them what to accomplish, but don’t dictate all the steps!

7.    Rewards and recognition. Yes, some of this is about pay. But if you have to overpay to keep people at your company, it’s because you stink at much of the rest of this! Publicly celebrate wins and give credit where it’s due! Give more responsibility, and reward those who do the best work. It’s meritocracy, not communism!

8.    Positive relationships at work. People who have good friends at work are more committed to the company. There are ways to foster this. Make work fun and social.

9.    Modeling. CEOs are always on stage. Your behaviors are the standard. If your culture is broken, look in the mirror first. Be the guy or gal you’d love to work for!

10. Effective communication. Be clear about the answers to the most important issues in your company. Listen more than you talk. Be consistent in your messages. Make sure there’s a communications plan and schedule so that messages cascade throughout the organization.

11. Employee development. Offer opportunities and rewards for improvement. Get relevant feedback through effective one-on-ones and effective performance reviews. Challenge people and expect them to be at least good, if not great!

It’s a lot to work on, but it’s also fun and rewarding! Start now!

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