Are you a commitment phobe? If people in your business are bad at keeping their promises try a different approach

How reliable are your commitments? If you and your colleagues are bad at doing what you promised, here’s an quick guide to getting proper commitment.

Have you been in meetings where lots of decisions are made but nothing gets done?

Unless you finish the meeting agreeing “who will do what by when,” everyone in the meeting has wasted their time.

In a business conversation, a decision states an intention, but a commitment holds you accountable. Although a commitment does not guarantee delivery, it’s far more reliable than a decision.

When managed properly, it also allows you to handle breakdowns in commitment with effectiveness, trust and integrity.

Commitment conversations start something like this:-

“Please can you bring the financials to the meeting?

You need to make clear what you’re asking for and get a commitment in reply. Be direct don’t muddle your request with:

  • It would be great if…
  • Someone should..
  • Do we all agree to…?
  • Can you try to…?
  • The boss wants…

To make a clear request you use the first person, direct language, and you address it to a specific person. You must specify a time and ideally “what good looks like”.

A well-formed request demands a clear response. There are only three possible answers:

  1. Yes, I commit.
  2. No, I decline.
  3. I can’t commit yet because:
    a. I need clarification.
    b. I need to check; I promise to respond by X.
    c. I want to propose an alternative.
    d. I can make it only if I get Y by Z.

When you declare, “I commit,” you assume the responsibility to honour your word unconditionally. You take on an obligation to deliver on your promise; or if you can’t, to do your best to take care of the requestor.

It’s much better to have a clear “no” than to get bogged down in a wishy-washy “I’ll do my best.”

There are many good reasons to decline. You may not have the resources; you may not have the skills; you may have a conflict with a previous commitment; you may anticipate problems; or you may just not want to do it.

Clear commitments don’t mean that everything will work out. Life is unpredictable, so even the most honourable commitments can break down. But by taking this approach you stand a much better chance to getting (and giving) wholehearted commitment.

Thanks to Fred Kofman, PhD. in Economics, Professor of Leadership and Coaching at the Conscious Business Center of the University Francisco Marroquín.

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