Leading Teams to Commitment

Commitment is the glue that holds teams together. However, team members will only be able to commit fully when the conditions are right. Members must first be able to trust that it is safe to commit and that expressing opinions will not invite retribution. Commitment is a force that delivers continuity and resilience as retention of committed team members means not just loyalty but a strengthened organizational knowledge base.    This knowledge base gives the organization the power to tackle extended and motivated employees are much more likely to carry the load of an absent colleague or manage through challenging times.

There Is No “I” In Team

In team building, it is essential that leaders nurture the right environment to foster commitment. Most team members are eager to please and to pitch in when there is important work to be done. All too often the system and assumptions of management make it more difficult for employees.

Lack of commitment also has a characteristic form. It manifests itself in the fear of conflict and lack of trust. It is evident in the sort of political climate where members sense danger in revealing their positions, and instead hide behind masks of what they believe is acceptable and delivers the right reaction. When we commit, as individuals we are always reaching out to commit to something that is greater than our simple, petty self-interests. In the big picture, it is possible for the team player to find an energy and strength that they did not know they had.

How to Win Commitment

Commitment will come much more easily when there is an atmosphere of trust and respect in the team. If you have experienced a moment at work or in sports where you were so synchronized with your teammates that you flowed as a group, you know the potential that can be unleashed by truly congruent and committed team members.

It is sometimes easy to forget that what we expect from teams may not be obvious to those with whom we work. Our culture is often complicit in making us feel like we have to be in the know when expectations remain unstated. When there are clearly stated expectations and openness to questions and opinions from members, they will be much more willing to become more invested in the goals and objectives.

Demand accountability from your team. Minimize negative behaviors such as gossip, pettiness, and personal attacks. It is one thing to hold strongly an opinion about the right way to proceed with a project. It is entirely another to personally attack your coworkers. Managers and leaders must be on the look out for this behavior and be ready to take whatever action is required to bring it to an end. Showing that misbehavior will not be tolerated will do much to reassure team members that they can participate safely.

Setting The Conditions For Commitment And Success

The value of commitment to a team by its members is difficult to overstate. Leaders must ensure that there is a safe environment for the exchange of ideas and respect for the contributions that members make. Once high levels of commitment have been achieved, teams have the time and again shown remarkable results. Trust, openness, and commitment are tools and the life force of truly effective and successful teams. Once team leaders set the right conditions and lead the way to true commitment members will return rewards by helping to carry them to ultimate success.


Bolman, Lee G., and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. Fourth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Eikenberry, Kevin. The Three Types of Team Commitment. 1 November 2011. http://www.eyesonsales.com/content/article/the_three_types_of_team_commitment/.

Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Disfunctions Of A Team: A Leadership Fable. First Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 2006.



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