Are You Seeking Agreement or Commitment?

A challenge in too many organizations is that teams and leaders often seek agreement instead of commitment.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

Agreement happens when people sit in meetings, nod their heads, and then afterwards either fail to take action or deliver on time.

Commitment, on the other hand, occurs when people take responsibility and then follow through to completion.

Agreement results in head nods. Commitment results in action.

Is your team stuck in seeking agreement instead of commitment?

Here are some symptoms you might find if your team is overly focused on gaining agreement instead of commitment.

  • The Leader rambles on for several minutes at a time and then asks “any questions?” and without hesitation begins talking again.
  • The Leader is more concerned about ticking items off the team’s to do list than creating value for the organization.
  • Team Members show a lack of engagement in meetings. Even though they use the right words, meaningful discussion and dialogue is absent.
  • Team Members automatically say “no” when the Leader asks if there are “any questions.”
  • Team Members automatically say ‘yes” to taking on new responsibilities without without regard to scope and how missed commitments impact others.
  • Team Members talk to others about a missed commitment instead of directly holding the person who missed his commitment accountable.
  • Team Members take on additional work solely for their own career gratification and not primarily for the sake of the team.
  • And on the rare occasion when the Team Member delivers, it is last minute or more likely late.

As you can see, all of the above results in wasted time and energy.

Teams that are focused on commitment instead of merely agreement do things differently. They get the right things done, they get them done faster, and they get them done without hidden mind fields, fist fights, and fiefdoms.

Here are some symptoms you’ll see on a team that strives for commitment versus just agreement.

  • The Leader asks open ended questions instead of closed ended questions. Questions such as “Do you have any questions?” have only two possible answers – Yes or No. Phrased differently, “What questions do you have about (this topic)?” will generate fuller responses.
  • The Leader begins with questions, then pauses. It takes people 10-15 seconds to process a question. Give them time to process your open-ended questions by pausing.
  • The Leader is aware of others’ body language. People often telegraph intent through their body language. In some cases you may see people interested in contributing, but they may be uncomfortable speaking up without hearing others speak first. If you see body language that implies someone is interested in speaking, make eye contact with the person. That often prompts a response. Or, if it doesn’t, simply ask “what are your thoughts?”
  • Team members come prepared to have dialogue and discussion. They know their meetings aren’t merely to do the round robin where people share information about what they accomplished that no one else really cares about. They know that true commitment comes from meaningful discussion, dialogue, and debate. And that’s part of their operating modus operandi.
  • Team Members make realistic commitments, by understanding scope and checking their calendars prior to saying “yes.”
  • Team Members know how to say “no” when appropriate.
  • And on the rare occasion when a Team Member can’t make their agreed upon commitment, they let others know and they seek assistance.

Generating commitment is everyone’s responsibility. It’s the leaders role to help set the tone so that commitment is the norm and not agreement. It’s every Team Member’s responsibility to take ownership for his or her actions, to hold peers accountable, and to provide support when needed.

What’s your team focused on? Agreement or Commitment?

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