We want people to trust us. Stephen Covey tells us trustworthiness is a factor of character and competence. There is a sure-fire way to increase our competence.

It’s called Committed Action.

Committed action is a framework I learned about while taking the Stagen Integral Leadership Program, a fantastic year-long leadership development program I can’t recommend highly enough.

It starts with awareness. Being a better leader starts here. We become more effective and build our personal integrity by becoming more aware of what we actually say and do.  

It’s that simple. And that hard.

The Five Keys to Committed Action:

1: Make an effective request. This is usually where it falls apart. Assume we are making the request. What happens if we aren’t specific and explicit enough? Perhaps we’re in a hurry. Or, perhaps we assume the other person understands what it is we want. But they aren’t clear. Because we weren’t clear. Then – surprise! (not really), the result isn’t what we wanted. Sound familiar? 

It starts with the person making the request being crystal clear on what, whom and by when. 

2: Enroll others. The discussion about the commitment is just as important as the commitment itself. Start with: Why is this important? Even better: Tie the request to our organizational values or purpose.  

If we are the one being asked to do something, we need to probe to make sure we are clear on what is being requested and by when.  The conversation may involve offers, counter- offers, commitments and possibly a refusal. Which brings us to # 3.

3: Make a committed response. How committed are we when we are pressured into doing something?  

Not very.  

The bottom line: it must be possible to say something other than an unqualified yes. There are four options:

o YES: i.e. agreement: “I’ll do it.”

o Promise to promise: “I’ll let you know by Monday at 3 pm.”

o Counter offer: “What if I get it to you Thursday instead or complete the first half by the end of the day Wednesday?” 

o No: “I’m very sorry but this just can’t be done by Friday.”

Most people feel deeply obligated to follow though if they exercise free will in making the commitment. Once we commit to doing something, we notice everything that is inconsistent with us following through on that commitment. Because making and keeping promises reflects and defines our integrity as individuals.  

4: Manage commitments. We need a process or system to keep track of what we’ve committed to doing. Not in our head. Written down. If the commitment is complex or longer-term, it is smart to have regular check-ins to ask and answer questions and make sure things are on track.  

5:  Manage and learn from breakdowns. Win or… learn. Breakdowns are valuable learning opportunities. It starts with declaring the breakdown. As close to real time as possible. Then, allowing people the time and permission to express how they feel about the breakdown. Next, take inventory of the situation. Ask: How did this happen?  And finally: if appropriate, make a renewed commitment.  

Blaming or making excuses gets us nowhere. Getting really good at managing and learning from breakdowns is a learned skill. And an important one. The seeds of tomorrow’s success are often found in today’s setbacks or failures.


Reflection: Which of the five areas of Committed Action is my biggest opportunity to improve?

Action:  Share the Committed Action framework with a colleague or my team   

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