Commitment-based organizations: Building a culture for success

Your coworker, Charlie, has just submitted his third project to you past its deadline. Not only have the projects been late, but they have been sloppily put together with errors and typos amok. You start complaining to your other coworker about Charlie’s behavior: “Charlie never submits his projects on time. And, with all the mistakes in them, he doesn’t even care about his work.”

Most people at work experience something similar to the short scene above. In many company cultures it is commonplace for people to relate to one another by their behaviors and actions. People are quick to form opinions and judgements and will completely write someone off, as in the scenario above. When people continually relate to one another as the opinions or judgements they have of each other, the results can be devastating within a company. Trust is eroded and a culture of complaining, pointing fingers and forming snap judgements is created.

Extraordinary cultures produce extraordinary results. In low performing organizations, people relate to each other as their opinions and judgments. But in high performing organizations, people relate to each other as their commitments.

So what is a commitment? A commitment is a bold statement, an audacious stand, a risky stake in the ground. Your commitment statement encompasses your core characteristics and what others can count on you to execute.

Here’s an example of a commitment statement:

“My core attributes are selflessness, love, joy, supportiveness, and passion. I am committed to engage my peers with servant leadership in pursuit of their ultimate dreams, to always uphold and strengthen the culture of our team, and to complete all projects on time, with a ridiculous attention to detail.”

In high performing organizations, not only do all employees generate commitment statements, but they articulate and declare them in front of their peers. In some organizations, employees publicly post their commitment statements by their desks so everyone in the organization knows who is committed to what.

In commitment-based cultures, people relate to each other from commitment to commitment even when actions do not align with commitments. Instead of engaging in complaining conversations, coworkers engage in coaching conversations with each other. It looks something like, “I know you’re committed to completing all your projects on time with attention to detail, but I noticed this last project was submitted a day late and contained some errors. Can we talk about that? How can I support you in your commitment?”

Instead of forming a snap judgment, others in the organization are afforded the opportunity to coach the employee constructively by relating to him or her as his or her commitment. In low-performing organizations, an employee is written off as not caring about his or her work or the company. But in high-performing organizations, an employee is coached back into alignment with his or her commitments by a peer or supervisor who is willing to engage him or her with candor and care. The difference is staggering and transformative.

Imagine, for a moment, your organization with a commitment-based culture. Your employees are in touch with themselves, their core values and the values of your organization. They are engaged and invigorated, showing up to work as the best version of themselves. They have articulated what they can be trusted to execute and complete. Everybody in your organization knows who is committed to what, acting in service of your company’s vision. Each person is held accountable to a commitment they themselves have created by a constant network of mutual awareness and support. They are willing to be coached in their commitments, and to live into them on a daily basis.

High performing organizations operate with commitment-based cultures. Extraordinary cultures produce extraordinary results.

Travis Sheldon is a consultant at Gabriel Consulting Group.