The Keynote Season Part 4: Inspire Commitment

Clarity alone is like one hand clapping. In order for it to make a sound and have an impact, it needs a second hand. And the second hand is commitment. Because we’ve all had the situation where we’ve created clarity without commitment. You know that meeting where, by the end of it, everybody sits, and they nod in agreement, and then you discover that two weeks later, nothing has happened.

Clarity without commitment. Moreover, clarity isn’t just created and agreed upon once, and then it’s set in stone, and it’s over. Leadership is a contact sport, and particularly in times of fast-moving change and, ambiguity and uncertainty, leadership to create commitment requires multiple and frequent conversations to help reach and maintain mutual clarity or agreement.

So, very simply, if you want not to create commitment or be able to build commitment, simply do this. Don’t show up, be absent and ridiculous and all, as it might sound, it’s amazing how many leaders, well-intended leaders, are just simply not available for their people sufficiently to build the level of commitment that you require to get the job done.

So, commitment can only be built with people by showing up. And when you do show up, you show up by having a conversation. And there is nothing I know that has the power of a conversation to either connect and build commitment. Or divide and create division. So your ability to build commitment going back to what I previously said about those emotionally intelligent awareness-based connections that high-performance leaders build with their people is based on how you show up on the quality of every interaction that you have in every context as you move ahead.

Because as human beings, people will only commit, or they won’t commit, based on how they feel impacted during those interactions. What we all want from our leaders is leaders who are authentic, who are real, who are genuine, and who are trustworthy. Otherwise, we’re just paying lip service.

In times of uncertainty and chaos, and ambiguity, people’s bullshit detector goes up. Comedian George Burns was on the money when he said, if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made. So how can you as a leader and how do the leaders who really do this well and inspire trust and commitment from their people?

So how do you show up and pass the bullshit detector test? Truly authentic in a way that generates the type of characteristics that creates the impact that cause people to select you as the best-ever leader. The leaders that produce this impact do four things. They demonstrate, or they deploy four different skills, which I loosely describe as the emotional intelligence skills that we described earlier in the episode.

The four skills or behaviours are as follows. The first thing they do is they Enquire. They also Hear. They Acknowledge, and they Straight Talk. What do I mean by each of those four?

To Enquire, they’re curious, and genuinely curious when they ask a question, and they’re interested to understand the answer from your side of the bridge.

To Hear is to listen at a different frequency. They listen to understand, as opposed to listen to respond or to try to contradict your point of view or your side of the story.

They Acknowledge, which means that they help you identify and feel they understand your real issue or your concern or your fear on your side of the bridge.

And finally, they Straight Talk, which means that they’re honest. They’re speaking from the heart. They’re speaking their own truth, whether you like it or you don’t, they’re transparent, and they don’t withhold or sugarcoat the truth in a way that is unrealistic.

Great leaders and leadership deftly mix and match these four skills appropriately in the moment, whatever the conversation or whatever the context.

The reason and the way these skills or behaviors inspire connectivity and commitment is if and only if they are done with full commitment. authenticity and full heart. For example, can you tell if someone is genuinely interested or curious about your side of the story or if they’re just asking a question and going through the motions?

You absolutely can.

Can you tell if somebody’s really listening to understand your story and your side? Or if they’re just listening to respond. And finally, can you tell if somebody is being truly honest and transparent, not withholding the real truth of what they want to say or are sugarcoating the truth as it is?

You absolutely can.

Your limbic system, your bullshit detector, can tell. And others, by the way, are almost as smart as you. Imagine the four skills as four individual cards. That can be played independently or together. The skill is in using the cards. The art is in knowing when to what measure and in what order to play the cards in the situation to get the best outcome.

The reward of the result is that it creates a connection with people on the other side that’s authentic and real and helps to build that level of commitment to get you to a point of high performance for you and the team. Of course, you use the four commitment cards to create mutual clarity or agreement that people can commit to around those four areas we identified earlier on, where we need to create the clarity.

So we get commitment to where it is we’re going, why we’re going there, what the strategy or the priorities are to enable us to get there. And finally, that people are in agreement and committed to what their role is or their contribution to making it happen. So in summary, we have four areas of mutual agreement that we need to, we need to create clarity for.

Four cards or behaviours that we need to deploy skillfully or artfully in order to help people become committed to those four agreements. And two pitfalls that we need to avoid.

The one around assumptions and intentions. It all sounds very simple, but I’m reminded of a time when we were working with an Italian investment bank. One afternoon, as we were flying in to continue to support the leadership team, there was a taxi strike at Linate Airport in Milan. And it was talk about an age of chaos. It was a moment of chaos that I’ll never forget. So I speak no Italian.

Finally, through all the chaos and misunderstanding, I found a way where we got onto a bus which led into the city center. And as we were on the bus, herded in together like sardines, we noticed that on the other end of the bus, one of the last people to board was one of the senior leaders who was part of the leadership team.

He happened to see us and made his way down to where myself and my colleague were standing. And he said, ah, how’s it the going? So we said, well, we’re here and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with you, but more importantly, Salvatore, how’s it going for you? How is it working? Trying to use some of the skills and some of the tools to develop your leadership skills in terms of building clarity and commitment.

And he says, “Leadership, it’s simple. But it’s not the easy.” So, apologies to any Italian friends who are listening or tuned into the episode for my accent, but leadership, as described by my friend Salvatore in Lanite, is simple, but it’s not easy.

Until next time. Stay safe, stay sane, stay connected.

Related Episodes

Episode 53, 54, 55 : Leadership in the New World (Dis)Order (Parts 1-3)

Episode 47 : Chaos is the New Normal

Episode 39 – 42 : Leading Teams in Chaos

Episode 26 : The Leadership Contribution

Episode 25 :  What is Leadership? (in Chaos)

Episode 8 : Building Trust

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