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Is Your Team Ham? Or Eggs?

(posted: January 30th, 2017)

Or, the Importance of Team Commitment

As a leader, one of the best things you can do for your organization, firm, or company, is to create highly-functioning, effective teams.

Solid, collaborative teams are the only real stay against change, enabling an organization to weather tough times. They provide one of your best competitive advantages, especially when the way forward is unclear, unstable and in flux.

To develop your most effective, collaborative team requires building foundational elements. Patrick Lencioni visualizes this as a pyramid, with each of the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team building on the ones beneath.

In my previous posts I talked about creating healthy conflict and debate within teams, and the importance of starting with trust. Team members have to feel that they have been heard before an idea, concept or project moves forward.

In this post I'll talk a bit about commitment. It's the next layer on the pyramid, and it's critical for getting things done.

Involved or Committed? Ham or Eggs?

"The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed."
~ Martina Navratilova

"A team is a group of people who share a common team purpose and a number of challenging goals. Members of the team are mutually committed to the goals and to each other." ~ Jim Sisson

The concept of commitment within a team encompasses more than it may seem at first. "Sure," you say, "Of course we're committed. We're a team; we're in this together."

But are you committed? Or, like the chicken, are you simply involved? To determine your team's level of commitment, consider the following questions.

  • Do all team members understand that groups of people that put their individual interests aside for the good of the team will outperform those who do not?
  • Are team members comfortable spending many hours hours working together on issues and topics that often don't fall directly within their formal areas of responsibility?
  • Does your team take a few minutes at the end of every meeting to ensure that everyone sitting at the table is walking away with the same understanding about what has been agreed to and what they are committed to do?
  • Most of a team's objectives should be collective ones. If the most important goal within the organization is to increase sales, does every member of the team share that goal?

Keep in mind that teams are made up of individuals, so you are likely to have a range of levels of commitment. I find that team leaders often need to spend time one-on-one with some teammates. Conveniently, with the Five Behaviors program we can use the DiSC tool to increase understanding of each other and build more effective working relationships. This can be quite helpful as we try to tease out what will improve team members' commitment.

"In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. Real commitment reflects the team's clarity around decisions, as well as its ability to move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who initially disagreed with the decision."
~ Patrick Lencioni

Improve Team Commitment

To improve your team's commitment, try focusing on:

  • Debate: Make sure people have the chance to thoroughly talk about decisions and voice objections.
  • Clarity: End meetings with a clear and specific summary of decisions, tasks and expectations.
  • Buy-in: Remind the team that all members have the responsibility to commit to decisions, even if they don't agree with them.

Plus, if you haven't already, create a set of guidelines that outline behavioral expectations or norms for the team. These can vary from team to team, but they need to address things like taking turns to speak, or ensuring that everyone is heard on a topic, or making sure that debates and discussion are about ideas and don't become attacks on people.

Commit with Grit

What we eventually accomplish may depend more on our passion and perseverance than on our innate talent.
~ Angela Duckworth, "Grit"

Commitment and grit go hand-in-hand. Do your team members have grit? The tenacity to commit to your team and company goals and the perseverance to pursue them long-term, no matter what? You can apply grit principles to your commitment by answering these questions:

  • What is our team's shared primary objective?
  • Do our individual tasks and smaller goals support our primary goal?
  • How will we bounce back from failure?
  • Are we passionate enough to help each other remain committed if we start getting distracted by other ideas or goals?

When we talk about commitment in teams, we are not talking about a single point that exists in a vacuum by itself. Like all of the five key behaviors exhibited by effective teams, commitment is tied up with healthy conflict/debate and trust. You won't be able to get team members committed to the goals and vision of the group if you haven't built trust and made it safe for people to disagree.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team is the result of the partnership between best-selling author Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) and Wiley (DiSC Personality Profile). Kristi Royse and KLR Consulting are authorized partners of this innovative team development program. The 5 Behaviors program includes five core modules, individual profiles, participant handouts, team report and interactive facilitated team activities. It is effective, simple, personalized, proven and unifying.

Challenge Yourself
  • What are some other signs of team members who are invovled, but not committed?
  • What other tactics have you found to increase team committment?
  • If you've had the experience, what was it like to be on a team that was NOT committed?

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