Dealing With Hollow Commitments

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Photo by the author

Everybody knows it is important to invest to get results. The opposite is true when commitments are empty and we still want to get results.

It’s easy to make commitments, but painfully hard to invest and follow through.

In principle: Those that are truly committed pay their way. There are many that believe a lack of investment will still get a result. How can this be?

Why we think hollow commitments will succeed –
1. We delude ourselves.
2. We become sincerely good rational liars to ourselves.
3. We tell people what we think they want to hear.
4. We actually make up things.
5. We have a rescue fantasy that somehow, it will work out.

The effort we exert is hollow, and half-hearted. The results spotty.

What do we do to curb the hollow committ-ers?
1. We smoke them out. Ask them to prove what they have said they’ve done.
2. Measure results
3. Lay out the discrepancy.
4. Identify the co-dependency.
5. Point out reality.

Hollow commitments are just short term survival tactics for those without enough self-esteem, credibility, or resources. It is a delay tactic to create something that is not real, and it can lead to substantial set backs for others.

How do you handle hollow commitments?
What do you do when people disappoint you, and don’t invest?

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Building Leverage against Adversity

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Building leverage in periods of adversity is about stepping up to take action rather than reaction.

Reaction to events empowers weakness and victim mentality.

Victim like thinking hampers the ability to develop resiliency.

When there is no resiliency, the tipping point to build leverage passes. There are several areas that can aide in building the leverage needed for adversity:

1. Influence – those with positive influence, have the right balance between sensitivity and power.

2. Focus on the right things – having the right orientation toward honorable things builds internal credibility and confidence. Those that feed on negativity are always operating from the defensive.

3. Exercise persistence and personal initiative – those that exert their energy by taking ownership are in the position to gain leverage. Victim thinking begets a defensive position with adversity, where little leverage is available.

4. Center personal activity – on what the main thing is. Keeping the main thing (or most important) out front is the key to building leverage. Distracting issues, drama, and petty issues only delay and liquidate momentum and leverage.

5. Leverage occurs when we keep meeting and working through challenges. Each time adversity is met by using our talents, skills, and knowledge, we build resiliency. We meet more challenges, which gradually develops leverage.

Leverage is not a given. It cannot bestowed, and it is not easy to attain. Without a deliberate amount of fortitude, and the right approach or mindset, we may find ourselves at a disadvantage.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders, Part 2

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Sustaining your strength and focus is more than individual growth. It is about how you interface with others. Maintaining our effectiveness is about how we lift others beyond their challenges and how we gain from the contribution.

1. Remember it’s not about you. If our emphasis is on others and not our own spotlight, then we avoid creating a codependency on what we do, and instead focus and celebrate what others do as a result of our vision and direction.

2. Integrate and Listen to Others. If we are talking at others rather than listening to them, then we are missing out on key contributions that others are making. The objective of leading others is to create other leaders. If we are listening to them, then we are allowing them to lead.

3. You’re not supposed to know everything. If you know everything, then why are you leading others? Leading with the Idea that you know everything, is closing off the necessary things and people that can teach us more about leading. If we are not being influenced by others, then we have closed off potential creativity and growth within our unit.

4. See your role as a contribution. The question is: Why did we choose to lead others? If it was for personal fame or notoriety, then our gains may be shortsighted, and short lived. Only leadership that aims to make a valuable contribution can feel worthwhile and purposeful in the long run. Ask yourself daily or weekly: Why do I do this? Why do I lead? Search for the answer that comes back.

5. Make Alone Time. At the end of the day or period, absorb what you just experienced that day. Making private time to do this is not selfish, but very important in your personal discovery process, and thinking how others receive us. Use the lessons to feed your thinking and vision.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders – Part 1

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There has been much written about personal renewal. These include a variety of personal habits, health oriented skills, and stress reduction techniques. Leadership and management are very difficult, and the reserve needed from day to day is significant. Personal renewal is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient when we consider organizational constraints and barriers.

BARRIERS
1. Multiple time sensitive demands
2. Phone calls
3. Commitments
4. Personnel or Customer problems

The need to be creative, present for others, and ready to fight “fires” within the organization can be enormous. The leader can find themselves operating from survival mode, or avoidance mode. Neither option is a preferable method and can lead to organizational drift.

RESILIENCY SKILLS
Invest consistently
Investing in others within the workplace is good for you and your employees. There is no replacement for compassion, empathy, concern and providing recognition to others for the good that is happening in the organization. Connecting, engaging, supporting, and learning from others and recognizing others, can be uplifting. The more you uplift, the more you can be lifted.

Take time to reflect
From what you’ve learned and connected with, comes the need to find a quiet place to reflect. The banter of noise, multiple disruptions, and interference does little to integrate what you are now. In order to know where you want to be, you have to reflect on where you are.

Avoid being mired in petty issues
Keeping the big picture in front of you despite the noise and interference of competing problems is a key skill to maintaining focus. Putting small issues aside, getting closure on potential distractions is a key skill and one that bypasses issues, rather than letting them control the path that is being set.

Write about what you’ve learned
Leaders that write, and reflect – and “crunch” ideas have the potential toward resiliency and personal growth. They not only reflect, but put their goals in clearer perspective. If you integrate your insights at the end of the day, your next day will be more informed.

Maintain a routine
Changes are a given, but maintaining a consistent routine is critical to dealing with the ebb and flow of a given day. Maintaining a structure that is flexible, yet adds some predictability can impact how you approach new issues that seek to derail your day.

Resiliency is a process – it requires constant development. It requires meeting problems, using skill reserves you develop, and getting closure on residual issues.

The Anatomy of a Choice

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Stephen Covey once said there were three constants in life: Change, Principles, and Choice. The underlying idea of his works was to help others match the right kinds of choices, to their personal vision, mission or governing value network. In doing that we could derive effectiveness in the variety of roles in our lives.

Yet for most of us, choice is the hardest variable. In today’s highly information driven society with its infinite number of personal choices we could make, choices are hard. Even if we have carefully crafted our personal mission, values and roles in our lives, choices are hard, especially when there are competing ones. Beyond this, is how there are so many issues that act on us. Even important roles can collide, and choices can be difficult.

Beyond these challenges is the fact that we can make a choice, but to follow through and see the choice through takes fortitude. The hardest part of a choice may not be the competing nature of paths we can take, but the bridge that needs crossed to implement the choice.

How many people have you met that make good intentional commitments or indicate verbally their intentions toward a choice, but fall short doing the choice? Probably everyone, including ourselves. It is very popular to make the choice, and it feels good because of the perceived accomplishment. The accomplishment of a choice is however the most important and critical step in any choice. Everyone can have good intentions when it is needed (see my article on “Organizational Codependency” elsewhere on this site). Making the choice stick is completely a different animal.

The Anatomy of a Choice

    When you’re planning to make a choice, consider the following elements:

    1. How realistically can I implement the choice?
    2. How many new steps will my choice make for me?
    3. The choice feels good, but doing the choice is like moving against a strong wind.
    4. How much work is involved in this choice?
    5. Who can help me get there, once I have made the choice.

    Of course the above sounds a lot like goals. A preferred definition of choice might be: What behaviors do I need to do? Choice are thoughts, but the behavior portion transitions the choice into action. Using the word goals is about as vague as choice. Without the operationalized behavioral steps and actions, movement will not occur. The anatomy of a choice is often a road to travel itself. It is also a lifelong pursuit of becoming and direction finding in your life.

Necessity Creates Focus

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The need to make change is often driven by necessity. In the worse case, a crisis may develop that creates the necessity to change. For some, without something pressing down on us, the movement toward necessary change could be delayed.

Ways that focus is delayed:
1.) We choose to avoid what is necessary

2.) To focus suggests that we have to take personal responsibility. We choose to deflect or blame others.

3.) We cover up the priority or necessity by focusing on things that don’t matter.

A necessity can either be a bother or an activating experience where progress is made. It is based on how we choose to proceed. A necessity can transform, or further debilitate, depending on how we approach problems. In the end, the choice is ours. Do we wish to transform ourselves and use our focus, or do we seek to avoid or deny the things necessary in our lives?

The Power of A Question

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When teams function best is when individual team members dare to ask questions of their leaders. To challenge indicates a commitment toward engagement, and a willingness to connect to the organization’s vision.

Questions suggest team engagement because:

1. It means the individual team member cares enough about their individual contribution.

2. Questions indicate that a team contributor is interested in doing rather than complaining.

3. New ideas might be imbedded in the question.

4. Through a question, the process of learning is occurring.

A leader should be very concerned with their team when people stop asking questions. It means that a member’s commitment is waning, a team member is not engaged with the vision, or the leader’s direction lacks clarity.

The worse case scenario when questioning is abandoned – is a sort of complacency where mediocrity is accepted and the program becomes a drifting entity.

Managers and leaders ought to encourage and welcome thoughtful questions by their teams. It’s the most reliable indicator regarding the health of an organization or program, including the teams that compose those areas.

Leading Change Through the Barrier of Doubt

Proposing a change almost always leads to some measure of doubt. Be prepared with your “thick skin”, because where there is something new, there is likely someone out there to doubt your vision.

Envisioning the future is not a comfortable endeavor for some, for the following reasons:
1. It requires others on your team to see what you see.

2. Seeing something new, means that some discomfort might need to be tolerated.

3. Sometimes a vision requires working through ambiguity.

4. Someone doesn’t share the same values. They don’t see what you see.

5. The need for control is high between individual team members. Collaboration is low.

Matter of fact, doubt is the opposite of possibility. Often the doubt is a way of adding a “rational reason” to why something won’t work, when there is likely little evidence that it wouldn’t work.

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Photo by: Brian E. Dick

Working through your vision to its conclusion requires the tenacity to take risks in the face of doubt. Knowing that doubt is a cousin to “fear of change”,and that ambiguity is the foundation to creating success, sticking with your plans and principles is the way to work through external doubt.

Ways to work though doubts:

1. Build a team that shares the same value for the change

2. Base your vision on clear principles

3. Accept your detractors – there will always be detractors…

4. Accept the ambiguity between the vision and the planned outcome.

Each step toward the planned outcome of your vision should actually strengthen your resolve to change and over time lessen the doubt that comes from external sources.