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“We judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions.”
We all know that leadership commitment to a new project, IT system, or business transformation is critical for motivating people to change and embrace the new initiative. People in an organization look to the leadership for cues about their level of commitment and then they adjust their behavior accordingly. So, the challenge is, how do we know if our leaders are truly committed?
Far too often I have seen where people talk about the need for management “commitment” or “buy-in” but they don’t talk about exactly what they mean by these terms or how they will recognize when they have it (or don’t). Many projects get into trouble because they equate simply sending out some communications or holding a meeting with key leaders as having commitment. These are activities intended to build commitment, they are not evidence of actual leadership commitment.
It is not enough to just be verbally committed to an initiative; the commitment needs to be backed up by observable action. The people you are trying to support and motivate will judge your commitment based on your actions, not just your words. Further, once they observe an action, they need to ascribe a meaning to it. You may need to support your actions with words to help people correctly interpret your actions and link them to your intentions.
To help people observe and correctly interpret your actions:
- Get people to move beyond just words to focus on demonstrating commitment. If you can’t see it, you don’t have it.
- Help people to know exactly what they need to do to demonstrate their commitment. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) for how people can and should show their support.
- Let people know what actions they should be looking for from their leaders as evidence of leadership commitment. If necessary, explicitly state the intention behind the action so that people extract the desired meaning from the actions they observe.
- It’s not just the leadership who need to know how to demonstrate their commitment. Help everyone in the organization know what specific actions they can take to show their coworkers and supervisor that they too are embracing the new initiative.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Do your observable actions match your intentions? How do you know? Do you obtain feedback from others about what they observe and how they interpret your actions? If there are disconnects here, how will you adjust?
- How do leaders know what actions they need to take in order to demonstrate their commitment in way that is meaningful others? Do you provide leaders (and others) with guidance as to the specific actions they need to take?
- How do you determine what actions a leader should take to demonstrate commitment? Do you ask the people in the organization what are the specific things they would like to see management do to demonstrate they are committed to the project?
- Do you explicitly state your intentions behind your actions so that people know that you are trying to demonstrate your commitment and support? If not, how can you make sure that people understand why you have taken an action and what it is you would like them to take away from their observation of your activities?
Check out these other resources for more information related to this topic:
- Take the Tri Tuns User Adoption Challenge – a free online assessment tool
“Leaders” and “Leadership”, both these to my mind need reinvention. Every leader has had an unseen active participation in creating the present market condition.