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The dreaded ‘C’ Word

March 4, 2009

My wife jokes about it all the time. Apparently when it comes to something I want to do, I never hesitate, but when it comes to going out with her friends or heading off to the cinema for the latest tear jerker, I have no problem finding something more pressing. According to her, the problem is commitment (I actually think its a question of priorities – but that’s not the topic of this post)

I read a post on the momentor blog on this topic called Staying committed to commitment and it got me thinking about commitment once again. Commitment is on of my Seven C’s; the place I start when I need to improve my training, so this is an important concept to me. So what is it?

What is commitment?

1 the act of committing or the state of being committed.

  • dedication; application
  • a pledge or undertaking
  • an act of pledging or setting aside something

2 an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action : business commitments | young people delay major commitments including marriage and children.

Commitment is difficult thing to instil in a person because it usually involves motivation of some sort. To commit, and I mean really commit to it, we tend to ask ourselves “what’s in it for me” before we take the plunge. If it is such an endeavour to commit ourselves, how do we get someone else to commit? To answer this, we need to answer the question “what’s in it for them?”.

How to get them to commit

If a student (or any employee for that matter) is to be motivated enough to dedicate their efforts to a particular task or undertaking, we will need to make them aware of what the benefit for doing so is. This can be done several ways.

  • Inspire them: This is what it will achieve (for the organisation, the team, the rest of the world). It is exciting, ground breaking or will change the way we look at things forever more.
  • Care about them: I think this is good for you because … It will broaden your horizons, be fun or show the rest of the team just how much you care.
  • Develop them: This will make you better at what you do or open up new opportunities for you and your future at this (and other even more attractive) organisations.
  • Challenge them: I bet you would excel at this or take this places it wouldn’t have gone before. Show me how we can do it faster, more efficient, with greater ease or more style.
  • Connect with them: This is the sort of stuff you like and talk about all the time. I know you are an expert in this field and we could really use your help with this one.
  • Reward them: If you do it, you will get this (incentive) in return. It will make you rich, famous (well around here anyway), attractive or just get you promoted. This can be a formal incentive program or just a fact of life (e.g. this high profile job always gets the bosses attention).
  • Threaten them: Do this or else I’ll tell the boss, demote you or e-mail those Christmas party photos to your wife.
  • Bribe them: I know you want to do this, but to get it, you must do this first. If you put a little back into it, I’ll misplace that lack-lustre performance evaluation or redo that last urine test. The bribe is essentially a one off, special arrangement that is not part of the incentive program for rewarding good work.
  • Scare them: This is essential to fulfilling your current role, keeping your job, not being branded as a slacker. This is not a direct threat, but the typical result of those who fail to fulfil this role successfully.
  • Involve them: Action breeds interest and involvement instils ownership; then it becomes personal. Not only that, we tend to fear what we don’t understand and it’s this apprehension that affects our motivation. When we become familiar with a task or role, we can start to look at how we can improve on what we are currently doing or adding our personal touch.

Obviously, not all of these are the most effective (or even appropriate) methods to instil commitment into your students and trainers (hence I didn’t title the post “10 ways to instil commitment”). Some of them, like threatening for example, will wear off quickly and despite the initial motivational effect, may have an impact performance in other ways (e.g. stress, anger, fear). Additionally, we should be aiming at using some of these for every task we delegate (such as inspiring, caring etc.), rather than pulling out the ‘big guns’ when the going gets a little rough.

The point here is that commitment is personal and as such, what motivates one person may be completely ineffective on another. Pro-activity as a leader and a manager is essential. Not everybody shares the same level of commitment, however, the level of commitment can affect the outcome and without a desire or the appropriate level of motivation, a lack of dedication will often be visible in the results.

Download my free e-book “NOW YOU TELL ME” The seven things that I wish I’d known before I started training on the job.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2009 1:17 pm

    Your 10 ways to get trainees to commit to training are great, but you can’t get past the the motivation of a tutor who is enthusiastic about their training and exudes energy. Even the most doubting course participant can usually be won around by humour, enthusiasm and your ability to relate stories about others’ successes. Many of your 10 ways will have to be delivered with humour, otherwise you might get off-side with the trainee.

  2. March 4, 2009 7:23 pm

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for your comment. You are right of course and without an enthusiastic trainer. most motivational methods will be seen through by the student as just lip service.

    I preach to my trainers about the infectious nature of enthusiasm, but I should be equally aware of the similar effect of its negative counterpart; apathy. A half-hearted attempt at motivating a student using any of these suggestions could as easily discourage student participation. Thanks for pointing that out, it was something that I should have included in the topic.



  3. March 5, 2009 11:18 pm

    Nice list – unfortunately these days, most people commit until it
    a) starts hurting
    b) costs money
    c) causes them to miss something on TV
    d) all of the above

    However, as Heather says “manufactured fun” can easily backfire.

    I always say to people that I can’t motivate you – only you can motivate you

    (and that includes going to the cinema..)

  4. March 6, 2009 12:56 pm

    Hi Jonathon.

    I figure that when we say we “motivate someone”, all we are doing is showing them what they may not have seen at first glance. If what we reveal has no appeal, I agree, only they can find the inspiration. I’m just making sure they have considered all aspects.

    What I do like that you pointed out was the concept of staying committed. It can be very easy to take that first step, but when the real cost (money, effort, concentration etc) is felt, that’s when we begin to weigh up the benefits again. I know that I will do this many times through any of my undertakings. You only have pull out once, but ‘staying in’ has to be committed to over and over again.

    Thanks again for your comment.

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