I recently met with a business owner who was lamenting that his employees, all long-term associates with this relatively successful professional services company, were not as committed as they used to be. The example he gave me to prove his point was that his top three people were not taking accountability for specific action items with a new service offering. “If implemented,” he said with his hands flailing, “this new service could easily double our sales in 12 to 18 months.” He went on to say, “But that’s not going to happen if people don’t live up to the plan. They need to be committed to getting this thing done.”

Well, I couldn’t agree more that commitment is a key element to success, especially for anything that requires a level of coordinated execution. Success in a complex environment can be daunting and individual commitment is sometimes the only thing, the glue, that holds everything together. However, commitment doesn’t come in bottles or cans, something to be poured or sprinkled on your associates. Commitment has to be developed, step-by-step, for any new or different idea or project.

If you need to get more commitment from your associates, here are a few specific steps to help you do so:


Keep it simple, of course, and crystal clear. It seems that most people today are on mental overload. Your industry, your business and your environment are all continually changing for better or worse and are simply becoming more complex. People like things that are simple and will reject, often subconsciously, those that are not. Keeping your ideas and plans simple is the first step to gaining commitment from others.


Few people will buy a service or project unless they know how it works. More importantly they need to know WIIFM, or “what’s in it for me,” before they buy. The same goes for your new idea or project. You know how great it is – after all it’s your idea, filled with your keen perspective and insight. But do your associates know what’s in it for them if they engage in this great idea? Can they see a direct benefit, indirect benefit, short- or long-term opportunity? Only when people understand what’s in it for them can they make a decision whether or not it’s worth their while to become fully engaged. Without answering the WIIFM question, you’ll never develop full commitment.


To hold someone accountable for anything, they must clearly understand your expectations, but they must also agree with them, a mental contract if you will. This may be the most difficult step in development since it is often quite subjective. That is, some folks may not want to travel down the path your headed. You may have presented your idea simply and clearly, and you may have spelled out what’s in it for them very objectively. However, they may not want to go, or agree to contract with you, for a variety of personal reasons. As a business owner if you’ve done your homework (be brutally honest with yourself here) with the KISS and WIIFM steps, you can not afford to spend a lot of time pleading with people to see it your way. They must agree with your plan to become fully committed. If they don’t, it’s time to move on – or time to move them. But if they do agree, they will most likely commit 100%.

Commitment then, can’t be expected from others. It must be developed step-by-step. Doing so will ensure success for your next big idea.