A committed team is critical for leadership success. Without one, you’ll need to keep pushing people to deliver. In an ideal situation, your team members will be self-motivated and able to push themselves to assist the team.
The old days of “command and control” leadership are long gone. Now, team members want a voice. They want to have an opinion about the work, and how it’s done.
Luckily, diversity of thought is a good thing.
Instead of just the leader doing the thinking, the team members contribute too. This leads to better outcomes and the potential for innovation and better ideas.
Learn More: 3 Ingredients For a Great Team Culture.
The Challenge of Creating a Committed Team
This shift to new-school leadership has its challenges. Leaders used to be able to make decisions and then simply tell people what they needed to do.
Now, leadership is more about facilitating, rather than directing.
The challenge with this is that people want to contribute. You’ll need to listen, and sometimes people will say things you don’t agree with, or don’t want to hear.
If you ignore suggestions from the team, this creates its own problems. Your team members know that you should make the final call, but they’ll still become disengaged if you fail to use any of their ideas.
Above all, creating a committed team is not about using a standard template. Everyone is different. What I want in my work will likely differ from what you want.
Once again, there is no “one size fits all” leadership solution.
Learn More: Thoughtful Leader Podcast #44: Directive Leadership – What It Is and When You Should Use It.
How to Create a Committed Team
If it’s so complex, can it be done? Of course it can, but it won’t be easy.
In my experience, to start with, there are a few mindset shifts that leaders may need to make. This comes down to tempering your expectations of the team:
- Don’t expect all team members to have the same level of commitment. Everyone is different, with varying aspirations and goals.
- Don’t expect people to show commitment all the time. Commitment may ebb and flow. People become tired, when others will step up. These periods tend to balance themselves out over time; and
- You don’t need everyone to be committed 100% to do a good job. People can still do a great job, without living and breathing the work of the team. Do you really need 100% commitment? Or do you just need people to do a good job?
Some leaders will struggle seeing team members who aren’t as committed as they are. Which leads us to the first factor to consider.
1. To Create a Committed Team, Consider the “What’s In It For Me?”
One mistake I notice some leaders making is that they expect the same from their team as they do from themselves.
They say “I think this is a great opportunity, and my team should too”.
The problem is that not everyone is like you. Just because you think it’s a good opportunity, or you feel excited, does not mean your team members will feel the same way.
A useful question to ask when you’re not seeing team commitment is to ask, for each team member:
“What’s in it for them?”
“What are they getting out of the situation to help them commit?”
It’s useful to put yourself in their shoes, but ultimately you can’t answer this question without having a conversation.
Learn More: 5 Questions to Ask An Unmotivated Team Member.
2. To Create a Committed Team, Have a Clear Vision
Call it what you like. A vision, a purpose, a mission – it doesn’t matter.
What’s important is that you have a direction. A picture of a successful future that people can understand.
People need to know when they’ve achieved success. It’s hard to maintain team commitment for the long term if there is no “flag on the hill” to aim for.
Over time, you’ll refine your vision. As things change and you make progress, you may need to adapt your direction.
This is OK, because the world is changing fast. Don’t expect your direction to stay the same when the world around you is shifting.
Learn More: Don’t Have a Clear Team Purpose? Here’s Why You Need One.
3. Keep Your Eyes On the Goal, But Don’t Forget the Steps to Get There
Some people have a goal orientation, where they can easily see the finish line and feel motivated to achieve it. They are less focused on the work required to get there.
Others are more task oriented, meaning they focus more on the steps that need to be taken, rather than remaining locked on the end goal.
To have a committed team, you’re going to need to maintain a balance between goal and task orientation.
The big picture thinkers will want to focus on that flag on the hill. Your detail folk will want to know the steps they need to take and how to achieve them.
Once you have your vision, be sure that you also work out the steps needed to get there. These might be smaller, short-term milestones that the team can focus on.
Without these, you may go off-track, and some team members will struggle without clear, short-term steps that they can work towards.
The steps will also help your people determine whether your vision is achievable. A vision which is too big or daunting without concrete steps to achieve it may send some people running for the door!
Learn More: The Importance of Planning and Why Leaders Can’t Ignore It.
4. Provide the Resources Your People Need
Without the right resources, your people will feel like they are set up for failure.
Tell a plumber to fix a problem without using tools. Or tell your team member to work on a task that they have zero experience in.
In both situations, you’ll see that people will lose commitment, because they don’t feel like they can succeed. Your most tenacious people may still push to achieve the goal, but these will probably be a small proportion of your team.
Your people need the right tools, skills, support and experience to maintain their commitment.
This doesn’t mean that they need to be experts at everything they try. But it does mean there is a base level of capability and support required before most people will feel confident they can succeed.
Instead of feeling like your people need to make a giant leap, set them up so they can make more incremental progress.
You’ll likely find that this will help them step forward and take on the challenge, rather than stepping back.
Learn More: Motivation at Work: Moving Your People Along the Motivation Spectrum.
5. To Create a Committed Team, Help Your People See How They Contribute
For people to feel committed, they need to be able to see the positive impact they are having on the world around them, whether it be the team itself, the organisation or external customers.
This is known as task significance, which has been shown to be a major factor in motivation.
A challenge in today’s working world is that work is becoming more specialised. People are often focused on a tiny part of the puzzle, instead of working on a whole range of aspects.
It’s important that you can help your people see how their work is impacting the people around them. You could do this by:
- Having them work on a broader set of tasks, rather than just a very thin, specialised slice of the work.
- Setting up forums for your people to meet and work with the customers of the team, so they feel more connected to the outcome; and
- Recognise the work of the team, including highlighting the specific ways they contributed to the successful outcome.
I once worked for an aged care provider, but I was often based in the central head office, where there were no customers.
Only when I started to get out to visit the residential sites as part of my project work did I have a real appreciation for the contribution I was making. This helped me to feel more connected to the purpose of the organisation.
Learn More: Thoughtful Leader Podcast #84: How to Give Your Team More Meaningful Work.
A Committed Team Exists In the Right Environment
Leaders are responsible for creating the right conditions for team success. You don’t grow a thriving garden without the right soil, sunlight and regular watering.
Each “plant” (hint: that’s your team members) may require different conditions. The only way you’ll help them thrive is to provide those conditions as best you can.
So the real question to be answered is:
“What environment do I need to create for my team to feel committed?”
The answer will be different for every team, and nobody can answer this for you.
You Can’t Make Everyone Commit, But You Can Hire People Who Are More Likely to Be Committed
A final aspect that I feel needs to be covered here is that not all people are likely to be committed to your cause.
Going back to our garden metaphor – there is no sense planting trees that thrive in a cold environment, if you’re going to need them to deal with a hot Australian summer.
Selecting the right people for the team is important. This means trying to help them see what you need them to commit to, before they start.
Giving people a realistic view of the role, the work and the team environment can be a good starting point. Then, you need to try to find out what motivates them.
Once again, this comes back to the “What’s in it for me?” for each person.
Are they in it for the money? For the cause? To support customers and the team? To learn new skills? Or to gain new experience?
It will be different for everyone. Remember though, that sometimes you don’t need everyone to be 100% committed. You may just need them to do a decent job.
What factors do you believe create a committed team? Share your experience with me and all the thoughtful leaders below!
Great episode, would like to echo recognition of good work or even good effort regardless of the outcome. A simple thank you goes a long way too.
Thanks Nicole – and good addition of the recognition!