Committing to something or someone often starts with being engaged. The level of engagement can vary from low to high; often, it’s based on a person’s desire and then the nature of actions that person takes towards that end.
In his popular book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge asserts that lower engagement involves forms of compliance. A person doesn’t see the benefit for the commitment and begrudgingly exerts minimal amount effort towards it.
On the other hand, high engagement involves greater activity; the end result is true commitment. This type of commitment is demonstrated when a person will make it happen and creates whatever ‘laws’ or structures are needed to do so.
In the workplace, high employee engagement is foundational to creating a strong professional commitment to the employer’s organization and the work it does. While the initial engagement starts with the employment contract, it is strengthened when, as an example, employees speak positively about the employer. However, words are just the beginning: employees increase their level of engagement by exerting tangible, and often discretionary, effort in their jobs.
In romantic relationships, the literal transition from engagement to marriage often includes the words “I do” in the wedding vows. In this ultimate declaration of personal commitment, saying “I do” implies that actions will follow the spoken promise (to love, honor, respect, forsake all others…and so on). As the marital contract lays out the actions desired by both parties, it’s not enough for two people to verbally commit but then not act accordingly; in fact, it is a violation of the marital contract.
In his work entitled Conversations for Action, Fernando Flores proposes that when people speak to one another – whether it’s a declaration or a promise – they invent reality together in that commitment. And, while words can support commitment, actions make commitment real.
There is no “shoulding” in commitment. Declarations and promises are spoken by the person with appropriate authority to make them. From there, active choices are made to fulfill that commitment. Commitment only becomes reality through action. Don Miguel Ruiz reminds us in his book, The Four Agreements, that the first and most important agreement is to “Be impeccable with your word.” Intentions manifest through words, and impact happens through action.
Today, I feel grateful for Peter, Fernando, and Don. Collectively, their wisdom has greatly supported my own leadership journey and serves as a reminder of the value of integrity in my life.
This Week’s Challenge: Where have you made commitments that you are not honoring through your actions? Take an inventory, starting in your personal world…then, examine your work world. If any disconnects show up, pick one and choose how you will create greater integrity between your words and actions. Ask someone you trust to help hold you accountable for strengthening your commitment in that area.
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