Team member commitment is a much-discussed topic among leaders. Whether they are lamenting the lack of it or basking in the high levels of it, astute leaders are thinking about the commitment of their team members, because they know it is the leading indicator of things like turnover, productivity, quality, and more. While much-discussed, often leaders feel like team members either are committed, or they aren’t, seeing it as a static fact. Often too, leaders see levels of team member commitment as something they can’t influence. I disagree with both points completely.
As leaders, there are many things we can do that might influence team member commitment, including the three we will explore here.
Before we get to those factors though, there are two types of commitment you might be thinking about: commitment to the team and commitment to the individual work. Both are important – and when people are committed to their work, they are far more likely to be committed to the team and its effort (or it is easier to raise that type of commitment). So even if you are more interested in commitment to the team, starting with personal commitment to the work is the foundation to build from.
First, here is a question:
What are the things that encourage you to be committed to something (including at work)?
If you are like me (and what much research shows), you care about the outcome and want to know that what you are doing is contributing to that outcome. Given that simple starting point, here are three things you can do to help build team member commitment.
Look for their strengths.
Chances are you see some of your team members strengths already. Don’t stop there. 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.
Understand their interests.
Do you know what your team members care about, both at work and outside of it? Certainly, knowing those things can help you build your relationship with your team members, and that effort alone builds commitment. After all, don’t you want to work for a leader who cares enough to get to know you? There is another level to this that we will talk about in a minute.
Know their goals.
Do you know what your team members want to accomplish, both at work and outside of it? Do you know their career aspirations? If not, it is time to get to work. Since commitment is driven by goals, how can you help them on the commitment front if you don’t know their goals?
How Do You Do That?
It is one thing for me to explain these three things and implore you to have this knowledge and awareness. However, you might be wondering how to gain or glean this knowledge. There are two ways: observe and ask. Being more astute and aware can help you – especially with the strengths piece. But if you want to really have a persons’ strengths, interests, and goals clear, you need to ask them. Set aside time in your one-on-one meetings to gain this information, schedule a separate meeting to have a conversation about them (when did your boss last do that with you?), or incorporate conversation about these topics into your next performance review.
I don’t care when you have this important conversation, but do have it. The more you understand these factors, the more you can help people raise their commitment to their work. As I mentioned earlier, earnestly working to understand these things will raise your credibility and the trust with your team members – which will likely raise team member commitment, but there is more.
Make the Connections
Once you understand these factors you can help people connect them to their current and future work. Specifically:
- Provide/find opportunities for people to use their strengths in their work. The more people feel they can bring their best selves to their work, the more they will enjoy the work and be committed to it.
- Connect people’s interests to their work. Help people connect their interests to the work they are doing. This may not always be easy, but the connection might be missing and unseen by team members. The more people are interested in their work, the more engaged and committed they will be to it.
- Apply their goals to the work. Help people see how their goals are connected to their work goals – or how achieving work goals helps them achieve their personal goals. When people have goals that matter to them, they are more productive, but also more committed to the work and effort required to achieve those goals.
This work may not always be easy, and it does require effort on your part. Remember too that in the end, other people determine their level of commitment – you can’t “make” or “will” them to be more committed. While there are no guarantees because you can’t control others, you can have influence on them. Take these steps towards influencing others to see their work in new ways to either build or maintain their level of commitment.