Whatever it takes.
That’s the slogan for commitment. You agree to take on something really tough, and you’re asked, “How are you going to pull that off? What are you going to do?”
When your answer is, “Whatever it takes,” and you mean it – you’re committing. If you are going to keep that commitment, you go out and work at it, relentlessly, persistently, imaginatively. You’re really committed.
When you have a team of people who have bought into such an attitude, there’s no way you won’t succeed. You may not accomplish exactly what you set out to do. If the challenge is really all that tough, you almost certainly will not pull off the entire original intent.
You will, though, produce a solid result that probably will get the job done, or enough of it. Forget the image of perfection. You’ve succeeded.
How do you do that? It’s plenty hard, in the first place, to get yourself to stick with it, to take the plunge and fail, then pick yourself up and tangle with it again. And fall and get up and re-engage. To keep studying the matter in the midst of the struggle, continuing to invent and employ new strategies with vigor and discipline.
It’s a lot harder, and much more complicated, to get a whole group of people to do it. On the rare occasions when you see that done well, you know it. We honor that as “leadership."
How do you do it?
To start with, you need people. You can’t be a leader unless there are people to lead. Where do those people come from, and how do they come under your direction?
Take project management as an example.
There are two ways to staff a project: when you get to pick the team members, and when you don’t.
Either way, you – the prospective leader – are dependent. Also either way, your percentages for success arise directly from your level of commitment.
If you are empowered to select the people who will join your project effort, you must do your homework. That’s the boring, time-consuming process of thoroughly researching just exactly what it is you’re supposed to accomplish. Then sorting through people to get just the right ones.
If the necessary people, or the necessary skills, aren't available, you're the one who presents that reality to those who set the expectations and must supply the wherewithal.
This entire effort cannot be rushed, fictionalized or superficial.
Anything that qualifies for a group effort is going to have nuances and hidden potholes, not least in the expectations of those who have authority over the project manager and the diverse units of the sponsoring organization that are to provide the project resources.
You can’t expect it all to be particularly easy. A diligent research effort will expose plentiful disagreement among those essential decision-makers.
You’re the point person in clearing it out. You won’t succeed in the project if you don’t succeed in getting broad, specific agreement among everyone on the priorities. No one but you will be in the position to coordinate firm, clear-headed negotiation to reach common understanding.
Patience, tolerance and persistence.
Those are the hallmarks of the commitment attitude. No matter what, you’re going to stick with it until you’ve got it right.
When the subject is team members, your first stop is the managers of the sponsoring organization. If functional managers are choosing the personnel to be assigned, you press them for suitable choices, in skills and in attitude. If you are choosing, you want authority from the senior managers and advice from the ones directly in charge of the personnel.
You make sure the decisions are grounded on the project-specific suitability of the personnel. There will be none of this shuffling the most dispensable staffers off on you.
Your commitment drives you to get close to those managers – with the backing of their superiors – so the people you get are the people you need.
Then you will invest the time it takes to know the skills and capabilities of the individuals, as well.
And you will be persuasive, with a valued product to sell. You will make sure participation in this project is a rich source of reward in personal skill development and status in the organization.
Not least among your tools for building group commitment is your own behavior.
The kind of people you want and need for a project effort are favorably impressed by a leader who knows the project thoroughly, has done all the necessary preparation and understands the needs and realities of the team members. This leader maintains a steady, confident demeanor.
The right people are capable of productive buy-in, and they’ll follow a real leader. No matter what it takes.