Jan 17, 2013

Book Review: The Commitment Engine

When a couple says “I do” on that blessed day of marriage, they exchange rings to symbolize their commitment to one another. How often do we think about commitment in terms of our workplace?

In his book The Commitment Engine John Jantsch emphasizes that dedication to a shared vision of success is based on a powerful sense of purpose. As a small business consultant, his target audience is clearly business owners running small businesses. Whether you have responsibility for an entire organization, a department or simply your own workspace, the concepts and practical suggestions he provides can revitalize your work life.

Jantsch says, “A business is only alive to the extent that there is commitment...The most critical aspect of commitment is that it cannot be manufactured quickly. It must be carefully cultivated and cared for, just as a tree can only come from the careful nurturing of a seed.”

The author outlines the four P's of a fully alive business: passion, purpose, (value) proposition and personality. When a business has clarity of purpose, it sheds pursuits that do not align with its purpose. Doing so can be a freeing experience, allowing an organization to focus on what makes it unique and pursue that with gusto. He says, “Clarity is that strong and unwavering sense that our daily choices are grounded in an authentic purpose.” When the team members at a business, at any level, have a gut level understanding of the vision, the very purpose of their business, they become more committed.

The author claims that “today's most important business and marketing directive is to build trust.” As mentioned earlier, this is not an overnight process. As I have experienced in my own working life, building trust among internal stakeholders and external relationships takes time and intentionality. Conversely, trust can be broken simply by not keeping an awareness of how small actions can have large consequences. Am I on time to meetings? Do I follow up with clients and co-workers as I promised?

When employees are clear on purpose, this confidence will spill over into customer relationships. Jantsch further emphasizes, “Making business decisions that benefit your customers first will almost always pay long-term dividends no matter how tough they may be from a short-term profit standpoint.”

The one behavior that can stop a business from realizing its true potential is playing small. “Small is easy, small doesn't attract attention, small is comfortable, small doesn't offend...doesn't hurt as much when you fall, and small keeps you right where you are.”

During our last budget process my manager set our yearly revenue goal at 21% higher than the previous year. This represented a significant challenge, especially considering I was new to the job. Despite my protests, she maintained it was achievable and would not budge. So I started to think more creatively and enlisted all my team members as valued assets in this process. Now six months in, our team is right on track to reach its goals. In the process we've all become more committed to our shared purpose.

Commitment isn't about blind loyalty. Jantsch says, "it's about searching for the deeper meaning of your life and bringing what you find to every moment that you can, to your business, to your employees and to your community."

Jantsch encourages us to consider anyone who comes into contact with the business as being part of a community. This includes employes, their families, customers, and vendors just to name a few. How would placing a greater value on the community affect the culture of your workplace? How could it deepen a sense of purpose and ultimately your business success?

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