I often hear managers lament that their teams are, “so lazy” or that their employees are “out the door at 5 pm.”  These managers are struggling with a common workplace problem, a lack of commitment.

When I ask more about the teams, I usually hear about micro-managing and a tightly controlled environment and then I have to share truth that is unsettling for many managers.  There is a correlation between commitment and the amount of control a person has in performing an activity.  For some of you, this will be the last thing you want to hear, because you like to hold the reins tight.  I’m not suggesting that you suddenly let your employees run free, but just begin to think about this commitment-control correlation.

Try it on for yourself a moment.  Have you ever been in an extreme situation where you had no say in the outcome and you were simply expected to complete a task by following some specific steps.  Memories of summer jobs may be coming to mind at this point and that’s a pretty good analogy.  How committed are most summer workers?  Alright, you can make the case that they are teenagers and therefore the very definition of uncommitted, but I’ve known some pretty diligent teenagers who were put-off not by the work, but how little control they had over it.  How many adults do you know that especially like being told what to do?

So, it’s important to keep in mind that the more control a person has over a task, the greater their investment in the outcome of that task.  You give them the opportunity to take ownership, to get invested in the outcome.  Take a look around your organization and notice those symptoms of lack-of-commitment.  Brainstorm for a bit about what you can do to give employees more ownership in these areas.  Also consider how you will monitor the situation after this change.  If your employees have been tightly corralled, it may take some time for both and you and them to adjust to the change.

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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