Building Commitment: Creating a Team That Moves Forward Without Hesitation

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By Rand O’Leary

What makes a good organization great? A strong team working together with a clearly defined purpose. The cohesiveness and organizational might that builds strong teams often begins at the top, with leadership leading by example and focused on achieving objectives at every level.   

While building a culture of trust and embracing conflict can as an impetus for change are some of the key components of a strong leadership team, it’s also important to look at commitment, or lack thereof. As Patrick Lencioni writes in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no one on the team is quietly harboring doubts about whether to support the actions agreed on.”

A lack of commitment can not only slow progress, it can lead team members to develop an avoidance of accountability, which can have far-reaching consequences. To develop or increase commitment with leadership teams, I have found several approaches to be quite effective:

Look for strengths – Kevin Eikenberry, a leadership expert and author, says that while you may see your team member’s strengths already, to build commitment it’s important to, “Spend time consciously thinking about what they do well and in what situations they excel. Think about how often they use those strengths in their current roles. Think about how you (and they) might be able to further use those strengths in their work.” 

Explore worst-case scenarios – When there is a low or lack of commitment on a team at any level, Lencioni writes that sometimes it is a good idea to discuss contingency plans upfront or clarify the worst-case scenario. This allows teams to realize that the costs of an incorrect decision are survivable and puts them in a position to develop strategies for overcoming possible setbacks, improving confidence in their ability to deal with them. 

Embrace deadlines – Deadlines are motivating and can increase commitment, especially when they are set properly and clearly, because it gives everyone a goal to shoot for. Deadlines also emphasize the fact that the task at hand is important. As a leader it is key to be clear about deadlines and expectations. According to Lencioni, a final deadline isn’t the only date that is important, “Commitment to deadlines for intermediate decisions and milestones is just as important as final deadlines because it ensures that misalignment among team members is identified and addressed before costs are too great.”

With commitment, teams are able to build upon their strengths and tap into a sense of clarity around organizational direction and priorities. That means they can move forward without hesitation, and pivot as needed. As leaders we need to see a lack of commitment as an opportunity to engage and build a team well-positioned to lead an organization for years to come.  

Rand O’Leary, FACHE, most recently served as the PeaceHealth Chief Executive for the Oregon Network. He shares his thoughts on leadership and the healthcare industry at randoleary.com.

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