Communication and Commitment

CWhen it comes to communication as leaders and team members, we have six different ways of “communicating” about things we want to do or accomplish, but only one of these choices is a clear commitment that invokes personal integrity and accountability. This is also true when it comes to personal and relational communication. However, the other five are too often still used and relied upon, often without us realizing it. It’s important for leaders and team members to be conscious of these different choices in order to know what is (or is not) being committed to.

Here are the six different forms of communication when it comes to things we plan, intend or even hope to do or accomplish, along with the follow-up action (or lack thereof):

1.   Say Nothing & Do Something– This involves not stating what you will do or by when, and certainly not making a commitment, but actually accomplishing at least some part of the task at some point. 

2.   Say Nothing & Do Nothing– This involves not stating what you will do or by when, certainly not making a commitment, and then never doing anything further about it.

3.   Say Something General & Do It– This involves making a general statement about what you will do, though it’s not specific about what or when, but you actually do it at some point.

4.   Say Something General & Don’t Do It– This involves making a general statement about what you will do, but it’s not specific about what or when, and you don’t ever do it.

5.   Say Something Specific & Don’t Do It– This is a clear commitment, but one which is not executed as committed.

6.   Say Something Specific & Do It on Time– This is a commitment which you fully execute.

While we can probably all agree that the goal is to actually get things done, there is a significant difference between each of the foregoing in terms of clear communication, relying on others, building teams and getting things done as committed and on time.

Here’s another look at the six approaches, ranked according to my assessment of each one in terms of value, lowest to highest (you may not agree with my assessment):

1.    Say Nothing & Do Nothing– Obviously Horrible.

2.    Say Something General & Don’t Do It– Awful and not helpful to anyone.

3.    Say Nothing & Do Something – Helpful only in that something got done, nothing more.

4.    Say Something General & Do It– Helpful, but again only in terms of getting things done, nothing more.

5.    Say Something Specific & Don’t Do It – Very helpful because when people make specific commitments, they can be accountable and learn to execute better and more predictably in the future. In addition, this is trackable and therefore visible.

6.    Say Something Specific & Do It on Time – Awesome. This is THE goal for all!

Can you see how all but the last of these types of communication introduce problems and obstacles to execution? More important, can you see the ways that we think we’re committing when in fact we’re not? As much as performance matters, it’s just as important to be conscious and aware about your commitments (or lack thereof).

What are the standard expectations around communication and commitments in your organization, with your team and in your relationships? Are you clearly and specifically committing – and thus, likely achieving – or are you saying nothing or being general (and therefore only rarely or partially achieving)? It’s time to shift the way you communicate and commit, especially if you want to execute and deliver results consistently and predictably.

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