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Boosting Commitment in Your Team

As the owner of a business, it is your job to get projects completed in a timely manner; however, it is often necessary to delegate responsibilities for finishing projects to some of your key employees. Obtaining commitment, or buy-in, from those employees is key to the completion of any project they undertake. Without commitment from the team, members will be unsure of their roles and unmotivated to complete the project by its deadline.Buy-in can be obtained by asking employees for input and incorporating their suggestions into a well-laid plan of action, which is then communicated to all members. Before embarking on your next project, consider the following eight factors that foster team commitment.

  1. Ownership  Probably the most important prerequisite or foundation of commitment is “felt ownership.” Ownership is the degree to which employees feel they have had input in the planning stages of a project. Many people would like to be the master architect of a plan, but generally speaking, genuine commitment is derived through balanced input and consensus among all team members. Employees will buy in if they feel they can act independently, without assistance or control, on the portion of the plan for which they are accountable. 
  2. Perceived Value  This could be called the “what’s in it for me?” factor. Teamwork is often tied to how valuable or beneficial the plan is to your employees. The more the plan is connected to individual needs, aspirations, and meaningful outcomes, the more readily the commitment will be achieved. Ask employees the following questions:
    • Will this plan meet some of your own needs? 
    • What benefits do you foresee accruing from this plan?


  3. Autonomy  While teamwork is about partnerships, it is important for team members to feel that they have some latitude and flexibility in their roles. Commitment is fostered by a feeling of freedom and independence. Clarify employees’ feelings about autonomy by asking them:
    • How do you feel about the flexibility you have in our agreement? 
    • Do you feel that you have enough authority and freedom to accomplish what we want to do together?


  4. Validity And Reliability  Validity refers to the degree to which a project is grounded. A valid plan is appropriate — that is, it fits the overall objectives of the organization. Employees think the plan is workable if it is valid, and they believe it will produce desirable consequences.Reliability refers to the fact that the plan will be consistent over time, and that it will yield desirable results on a repeated basis. The plan is predictable and can be trusted. After an employee believes that a plan is logical and has long-term value, you can expect higher levels of commitment.

    Test team members’ perceived level of validity and reliability of a plan by asking:

    • How effective does the plan seem to you? 
    • Do you think the plan will hold up over time?


  5. Optimism  An optimistic approach characterized by emotional support and expressed confidence in employees will boost commitment from the team. Optimists create an environment of encouragement by helping others think in positive, constructive ways, and enabling them to envision success. In some cases where employees are operating at less than capacity, exhibiting optimism will require you to make an “investment stretch.” After all, it’s much easier to show confidence and support for someone who operates at 100 percent! The key is to take a risk; try and energize commitment from low-performance team members. Try to envision the best possible outcome and describe to team members how it will contribute to the organization’s overall objectives. 
  6. Ability  Employees may believe that the plan will produce results, and they may have shared their ideas for how it can work best. However, there may be a gap in their skills or abilities, and this “ability obstacle” to commitment can be both perceived and real. Some employees may have had a lot of training and preparation, but may have never attempted certain tasks. It is critical to assess employees’ sense of their ability, knowledge, and skills to deliver on a plan by asking:
    • Do you feel comfortable with the training you have had to complete this project? 
    • Do you feel your experience will assist you in this situation? 
    • Does this plan seem doable to you?


  7. Resources  Every team member must be equipped with the resources, tools, finances, and time frame to complete a project. Test the waters by making sure employees feel comfortable about the tools and time allotted to accomplish the task at hand. 
  8. Ecology  No one is an island, and no plan exists in isolation. We are all connected to larger systems and interrelationships between our associates. Encourage team members to look at the effect of the plan on these wider relationship levels. You might ask:
    • Are there any undesirable by-products of this project? 
    • Will anyone in the organization be adversely affected by this plan? 
    • What do we need to take on or give up to achieve the goal?

About the Writer: This article was excerpted with permission from Win-Win Partnerships by Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D., and Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D., co-founders of The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness. For more information, call 918.333.6609.

All rights reserved. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher. This article first appeared in Entrepreneurial Edge — Volume 3 — 1997.