Commitment, Character, and Culture

The word ‘commitment’ has come up in several coaching conversations I have had with managers lately, so often that I’ve been forced to sit up and take notice, and listen more deeply to why it is being said.

“His/her commitment level is eroding.”

“There is a lack of commitment in his/her approach which I do not understand.”

“Isn’t commitment to the team and to the company something we can rightly expect?”

I am not hearing these things about staff and the employees that these managers work with. I am hearing it in regard to their peers and partnerships, and about other managers. There is unrest, and a nervousness that commitment to career is disappearing, and that a “me, myself and I” attitude is trumping company commitment and team commitment much too often.

We managers will accept that it is part of our job to “rally the troops,” but it isn’t something that we expect we need to do for each other too. Other managers are supposed to understand, drink the Kool-aid, and be enthusiastic. Other managers are supposed to buck up and get the job done, and be the fall-back contingency go-to people when all else fails.

I agree and I don’t agree.
I agree when there is a healthy workplace culture in place in a relatively healthy business model. That’s when I have high expectations for managers too.
I don’t agree, in that those toe-the-line expectations are a pretty tall order in a time like this, when most business cultures have taken hard hits of uncertainty and inconsistency, and business models are experimental at best.

I’m not that surprised this upheaval in management ranks is happening. We’re in a time where change is running rampant, loyalty has been sorely tested in the face of lay-offs and furloughs we were once sure would never happen, and the predictability of value-alignment has flown out the window. People aren’t apt to commit to a business where uncertainty rules each day: They aren’t sure what will happen next, and which values are revered —and financed by a sustainable business model.

And newsflash: managers are people too.

There is usually just one exception. People do commit to healthy business culture. They will commit to a team which they’ll describe by saying, “Well, if we must go through this, at least we’re going through it together, and with a team I respect and trust.”

In a healthy business culture, the “how” you approach change remains relatively consistent whatever that change happens to be. People don’t feel they need to fortify their own positions in a healthy culture as much as they do in an unhealthy culture where the “how” is as big a question as the “what, why and when.”

Tough decisions get made in healthy cultures too, but they are more predictable when those tough times come, because according to the tenets of the business culture, the decisions “make sense.” Values are known and they are respected.

Bottom line? Character matters.
And what is character? Alignment with values known to be chosen by a company’s culture.

And when workplace culture must be rebuilt in a new business model, it is individual character within a team which seems to matter most.

Character is like Aloha: For you to get it from others, you have to be obsessed with giving it, and demonstrating it first.

And finally, this very wise coaching from W.H. Murray:

Until one is committed,
There is hesitancy – the chance to draw back.
Always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would have otherwise never occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance,
Which no person could have dreamt would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do, or dream
You can begin it…
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

—W. H. Murray, Scottish Himalayan Expedition 1951