The Commitment Killers: don’t drive with the brakes on

By Andrew Bass | Articles, Blog, Newsletter, Top1

On one of the first occasions I drove ‘solo’ as a newly qualified teenager driver, I thought I’d broken my Mum’s car (this was before the time I actually crashed it). As I drove off from the kerb outside my friend’s house, the car just refused to accelerate. It jerked and lurched, and the poor engine hovered on the verge of stalling. I can still remember my panic. 

Then I released the handbrake…

We can get a long way just by removing the blocks that make people’s jobs harder than they ought to be.

Take the issue that is most pressing for many leaders today: engaging and holding on to talented people. The first place to look is not at salary or the ‘package’: it’s the behaviour of the leadership cadre throughout the organization. 

This cliche is bang on: “People don’t leave a company, they leave their boss.”

Now, the leaders who hire me are people of good faith (people of bad faith have never seemed to find my approach conducive, and I’ve never wanted to work with them). That said, leaders of good faith have other leaders who work for them. Some of those leaders will fall short of displaying the skills or values you’d ideally want.

Most usually it’s due to a lack of awareness. Occasionally it’s malevolence. Either way, the effect on the business is like driving with the brakes on.

Here are ten Commitment Killers – unhelpful behaviours that naturally arise in organizations, slow them down, and even threaten to stall them. It’s a top leadership priority to weed this stuff out:

  1. Tolerating people who undermine your culture, usually because their numbers are good.
  2. Not appreciating what you’ve got, for example ignoring ideas and insights from employees perceived as lower status.
  3. Being seduced by “Rockstar hires” and thereby implicitly criticising incumbent employees (and by the way, the research shows that a lot of these rockstar hires don’t work out so well).
  4. Treating groups as if they’re all the same e.g. “Millennials.” (The label applies to every human born between 1981 – 1996, regardless of culture, country, education, religion, sense of identity… That’s 1.8 billion people (UK 16M, US 56M, Canada 8M). They can’t all want the same thing.)
  5. Blaming – the best leaders just don’t do it.
  6. “Management-speak” (aka Corporate BS) – boring at best; cynicism-inducing at worst.
  7. “Somehow management” – setting a ‘bold’ vision, but not providing the tools, support and resources for it to happen.
  8. Moving the goals posts – promising promotion if someone does one thing, then passing them over in favour of someone who did something else.
  9. Sideshow solutions e.g. generic skills training that isn’t reinforced when people come back into the workplace.
  10. Telling people to do “More with Less”. It sounds good, but if you actually look at what happens, it translates into, “I’m cutting your budget, asking you to wear two hats and raising your targets but not your bonus. Figure it out.”

Don’t try and drive your business with the brakes on!

Getting rid of Commitment Killers invigorates any organization. Yes, it might mean conflict. It can be emotionally tough. But it’s easier if you borrow the strength of others. And if good faith is going to translate into good action, it’s a must. It’s an acid test of leadership.

For more, and for what to do when you releaese the handbrake, check out my book, Committed Action.

Download a sample chapter and free resources.

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