How to Set the Stage for Employee Commitment

I recently struck up a conversation with an Apple employee in the food court.

He was clearly on lunch break, but didn’t mind talking shop.

“Actually, I wear my blue Apple shirt even when I’m off the clock,” he said.

That’s rare. Usually employees throw on a jacket the minute the step out of the store to avoid any work-related conversation during break time.

Not this guy. Matt told me that strangers still came up to him all the time with their computer questions – even when he’s not in the store.

“Doesn’t that get annoying?” I asked.

“I love it. And I’m happy to answer customer questions because this stuff is my life. That’s the best part about working for Apple: They make me feel like a walking genius bar!”

HERE’S MY QUESTION: Are your people that committed?

If not, consider these suggestions to set the stage for commitment at your organization:1. Hold up a mirror to yourself. People fundamentally disconnect from their work for a variety of reasons: When they’ve done the exact same thing for too long, when they feel like they can’t succeed no matter how hard they try, when they’re forced to conform to what you want them to be and when their effort is no longer worth the reward.

How many of those issues run rampant in your office? My suggestion: Tell the truth about your organization’s current level of commitment:

*Are your people grudgingly conceding or gratefully crusading?
*Are you telling people what your demands are or asking people what their dreams are?
*And do your employees come to work every day because they love it, or because you’ve degraded them into obedient soul dead conformist worker bees?

When you begin wakening to these truths, you’ll gain a greater understanding what it’s going to take to get all of your people singing off the same page. How many people on your team willingly provide discretionary effort on a consistent basis?

2. Intrinsic pride creates emotional commitment. People who work for Google don’t tell their friends they’re computer programmers. They say they work for Google. And why wouldn’t they? They work for Google – the coolest company on the planet. Of course they take pride in their job.

That’s the lesson: If people answer the question, “What do you do?” with the name of the organization, that means their self-esteem and identity is connected to the sense of belonging of that organization. It’s a vital part of their sense of self. They’re committed and involved. Their affiliation to the company reinstates their sense of pride.

And, because their identity is intimately connected to – and invested in – the organization itself, they’ll commit to doing whatever it takes to make that organization succeed. Even down to the most basic level.

That’s what a worldwide survey from Towers Perrin proved: Organizational symbols or logo are visible manifestations of pride. Think it’s an accident that all those geeks in Palo Alto wear Google hoodies? Nope. And you would do the same. How much company pride do your people have?

3. Don’t dismiss your organizational heritage. To set the stage for commitment, the leaders of your organization need to help the people connect their actions to a larger story. Otherwise employees will continue to wonder, “Is this effort worth the effort?”

As David Armstrong wrote in Managing by Storying Around, “Storytelling is the primary medium for passing along corporate traditions and recognize leaders within the organization.”

There’s only one problem: Company leaders usually confuse “knowing the company story” with “memorizing tired, flat language on laminated mission cards.”

What matters is that every employee absorbs the organizational why. What matters is that every employee freely talks about company roots. Otherwise emotional attachment remains remarkably low. And it becomes harder and harder for people’s work to invoke a sense of gratification in their company history. When was the last time you waiter at Olive Garden spent ten minutes telling your table about the origins of authentic Italian food?

4. Update your theory of motivation. You can’t motivate anybody to do anything – ever. Motivation is intrinsic. As such, there are two approaches: Either you hire motivated people and then inspire them to motivate themselves; or you rid the environment of demotivators and then let people access their natural motivation.

Either way, you still have to tune into their frequency. You have to deliver messages that resonate with their emotional reality. And you have to give them room to express commitment in their own unique way. Otherwise their level of engagement will remain at noncommittal cautiousness at best.

Look: People are bound by emotion to the things and behaviors they love. As much as your ego wants to think otherwise, they’re not showing up for you – they’re showing up for themselves.

Remember: People comply with what you want– but they commit to what they want. How are you helping people fall in love with themselves?

5. Set your own stage first. If you truly want commitment to cascade down from the top, you have to be over the top yourself. We’re talking pathologically and unquestionable committed. As in, “I have the company logo tattooed on my ass” committed. That’s what shows people you truly believe what you say, and that’s what inspires people to rethink their own commitment.

The cool part is, the moment you definitely commit yourself with both feet – and, more importantly, communicate that you’re fully committed – the people who matter most follow suit. It all depends on whether you’re courageous enough to wear your instrument of commitment proudly.

The point is: What you are communicates everything people need to know. The question is: What do they think when they hear your life speak?

REMEMBER: You don’t need to work for Apple to be committed.

If you want to set the stage for commitment at your organization, start treating it as a lifestyle – not a policy.

Maybe then your employees won’t mind answering customer questions when they’re off the clock.

How committed are your people?

For the list called, “10 Unmistakable Motivators of Human Engagement,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

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