Image courtesy of Mark Duffel

Everywhere we go we hear of commitment. But what is is it really? Commitment is simply a dedication of self to an activity or cause. Loyalty, dedication, faithfulness, reliability and devotedness are just a few of the words that we could use to describe commitment. It is a promise that elicits a strong sense of focus, purpose and dedication. 

This can often seem overwhelming and daunting for many leaders. When we make a commitment, we are making a decision to abide by our word and remain true to the choice we made. But for a commitment to be honored, it requires us to go a step further, and that step is usually a big one: In order to live up to what we decide, we must align with the corresponding action that will enable us to stay true to ourselves and those we lead. 

So just where do you fall on the continuum of commitment? Here are seven questions to help you guide and gauge your commitment level.

1. What does commitment mean to me?

Surely, we must personalize commitment. Defining what it means to you is important if ever you are to be faithful to your team, business, friends, families and stakeholders. It is easy to commit when everything is going well, but, how about those mountainous, rocky and trying times that seem to shake the very bedrock on which you stand? Will you still be faithful to the cause? Decide how far you are willing to go from the get-go, before these times surface so that if and when they do come, they won’t take you by surprise. Very often it is the surprise factor that crumbles our foundation.

2. How much thought have I given to the commitment I am about to make?

In defining what commitment means to you, you should give great consideration to whether you are able to be devoted to the decision you have made. Think about all the resources that will be required to honor your word. It must be carefully thought through. Have a clear plan in mind to be able to commit. If you realize along the way that you will be unable to make good your word, inform your stakeholders ahead of time so that you don’t leave a bitter taste in their mouths.

3. Do I have a propensity for commitment bias?

If you have a tendency to do what you have done or said you will do in the past simply because it has become public knowledge, you may have what is called “commitment bias.” This is not a bad thing. When you make a commitment publicly, it can help keep you accountable, driving you to work harder to stay true to that which you’ve committed.

And while it is important to honor your word, you also have a right to change your mind. Perhaps you made a commitment based on information available to you at the time. With the passage of time, you may come across more details which will impact your decisions going forward. Don’t hesitate to share that with your team, they will understand if you have to change your position.

4. Who and what will I need to help me when I make a commitment?

If you are leading others, clearly you are not alone in what you do from day to day—you can’t lead in a vacuum. Identify all the resources you will need to honor your commitment. This includes the people you will need to help you stay true to your word. Don’t just identify them. It shouldn’t be kept a secret. Tell them about it as you seek their buy in to help you win.

5. Why am I making this commitment?

Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Stephen Covey’s “begin with the end in mind” point in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People urge us to think back to our vision. This is no less important when we make a commitment to do something. It is important that whatever we do as leaders be tied to our vision. Aligning with our vision will always serve as a motivating force to help us see through what we have decided on doing to its end (even when it may be difficult).

6. What are you willing to give up?

Expectations are infinite, time is finite. There is an opportunity cost to working on your commitment. When you spend time on project A, it decreases the amount of time you have available to invest in project B. This ultimately affects how committed you can be to other people and other initiatives. Understand that when you take on new commitments, you may have to let go of others.

7. What are my personal values?

While organizational values and culture are fundamental to how we go about executing our roles and functions, we can’t discount the efficacy of our personal value system. At the end of the day, we must admit that companies can’t really have values but are rather based on its leader and team. Our values get us moving in the direction of our goals, remind us what to focus on and give us a sense of accomplishment when our dreams are realized.

We will work to stay committed to that which we hold to be important based on our value system. As you go about this month, think about what you’re committed to and consider the areas in which you would like to see improvement. 

* * *This post first appeared on the Leadercast Blog.