Commitment issues

by Kate on September 27, 2010

Every business owner knows that success requires commitment. But what does it really mean to commit? What are you committed to?

As I reflected on this post, I realised that Commit is a BIG word that has become devalued in a world where there is almost always a Plan B. Very often it is little more than a weasel word.

So what is commitment, really? To commit is to pledge or bind to something. Its root is in the latin words mittere – meaning to send, throw or hurl – and the prefix ‘con’ – meaning to bring together, unite or engage. Commitment is about dedication, determination and resolution and is demonstrated through our actions and accountability.

Words, as Nancy Zimmerman writes here, are cheap. In the end, what matters is not what we say but what we do.

Yet in everyday use commitment is often scattered so liberally that it has become hollow. Don Watson includes it in his book ‘Weasel Words‘ where he suggests we often say commit when we really mean something like “intend to passionately” or “Absolutely … in the present context”. Looked at this way, there’s no sense of a pledge to see something through or to do what it takes to make something happen.

Success in business takes more than words on a plan. A leader – whatever their position in an organisation – must have absolute commitment to do what it takes to succeed in their endeavour, acting as though there is no alternative. Certainly, commitment sometimes seems hard, it’s easy to find excuses. But as Steve Jobs said so powerfully “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

  • What are you committed to?
  • What’s your next action?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cat Matson September 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

when I think of comittment I think of the high-board diver.

Is he comitted when he’s got the diving gear on? No, he can still back out.

Is he committed when he’s half-way up the ladder? No, he can still climb back down?

Is he committed when he’s standing on the board, considering his next move? No … he still has the option to back-out.

He is only committed when he’s jumped – there’s no way out, he has to complete the dive.

There are very few people who are willing to commit to ANYTHING to the point of no return … and that’s OK … but it does point to the over-use of the word.

I’m with both you and Robin – actions point to committment far more than words … so therefore, what I am committed to is demonstrated ‘after-the-fact’ by my actions … not in advance by my words.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post Kate.



my sharewords: sparking your peak business performance. yours?

2 Kate Groom September 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Thanks, Robin, for your comment and I agree that it’s actions that count. Nice image of a contract that is renewed by action! I do also think there is value in exploring our commitments through our dialogue with ourselves and others (though we are probably talking about slightly different angles on ‘commitment’)

Without wanting to turn this into too much of a “zen like” conversation, I think it can be valuable to explore and reflect on what we are committed to and consider whether our actions provide the evidence of that. Here’s a practical illustration:

I’ve worked with people whose businesses have been in financial crisis and who assert their commitment to doing what’s necessary to come through that. Not all who say they are committed do the actions required to turn things around – even though they really mean to. This happens because we are human, change is not easy, financial stress can be scary (and avoidance can be a coping strategy) and it can take time to build the muscle to support remedial action.

In these cases, plans and checklists don’t always result in the necessary actions – especially if we have made that list because we feel compelled to give the ‘right’ answers or do ‘what’s expected’. The practice of asking “what am I committed to, why is it important, what will it take and do my actions live up to my word?” is valuable as a way of reflecting on our choices.

I find the more I reflect like this myself, the stronger is my own commitment to the things that matter in the face of what life throws at me.

Thanks, as ever, for your diamond focused participation.
Kate :-)

3 Robin Dickinson September 27, 2010 at 8:39 am

Thank you, Kate.

Commitment is best demonstrated by actions. Nowadays, I don’t talk about my commitments, I just do them. The people I serve know that they can rely on me – that I’m committed to their success. It’s a ‘contract’ that gets constantly renewed with fresh actions.


Best, Robin :)

My sharewords: helping you succeed in business. Yours?

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