Seeking a commitment is seemingly a simple task. A manager asks a staff member to do something, and if they agree, a commitment has been made. But embedded in that simple task are several key elements that make a good commitment. These elements are diagramed in the attached image and described below. If a manager finds that he or she is having difficulty getting effective commitments, often one of these key elements is lacking. This basic commitment model provides a framework for developing strong commitments in your organization and for identifying issues when commitments are not being met.

Motivational concept image of a hand holding marker and write Commitment isolated on white

Commitments are all about communication. Effective communication is a two-way street. The message must be communicated by the sender, received by the listener and then verified by the sender that the message was accurately received. These steps must be performed for effective communication to take place. The basic commitment model has a communication model embedded within it to ensure that effective communication has taken place.

Going through the commitment model once is rarely enough. Circumstances change. Emergencies arise that change priorities. People are human. Many things can happen that can derail a good commitment. To keep the commitment on track, it is important to monitor the commitment and make course corrections if needed. The commitment model is a continuous process with progress monitoring, feedback and revisiting of expectations when needed.

While making a commitment is the responsibility of a staff member, following an effective process is the responsibility of the manager. Using an effective commitment model is a great way to ensure effective, strong commitments.

Key elements of an effective commitment model:

M – Manager responsibility

S – Staff Member responsibility

Close-up of businessmen closing a deal in a meeting

  1. One person responsible (M) – This is a basic tenet of good management and the first step of an effective commitment. If you need to seek commitments for a task from multiple people, either split it into smaller tasks with one person responsible for each, or put one person in charge of the entire commitment. Having two people responsible for one commitment is a surefire way to set things up for failure. The manager is responsible for clearly identifying who is the one person responsible.
  2. Manager develops clear expectations (M) – Before a manager can seek a commitment, they must first have a very clear definition of the task in terms of scope, time frame and level of effort.
  3. Communication from manager to staff (M) – Once the manager has clearly defined their expectations, it is now time to meet with the staff member and begin seeking the commitment by describing the expectations and asking for a commitment. This is where the communication starts, and this is the first step in the basic communication model.
  4. Active listening by staff member (S) – Once the manager has communicated the expectations and asked for the commitment, the staff member should practice active listening by repeating what they heard back to the manager, including all details regarding expectations (scope, time frame, level of effort), and ask any clarifying questions.
  5. Verification of expectations (M) – The manager should then verify that effective communication has taken place. Did what the staff member heard match the manager’s expectations? If not, it is necessary to go back to step 3 and repeat the basic communication model.
  6. Make the commitment (S) – Only after the manager has clearly defined expectations and effectively communicated them to the staff member can an effective commitment be made.
  7. Monitor progress (M) – Making a commitment is not the end of the process – it is the beginning. Appropriate check-in points should be identified in advance, and the manager should monitor the progress of the commitment. This will ensure that the commitment is on track, and give the staff member the opportunity to ask for feedback or input on the task.
  8. Feedback (M/S) – During the progress monitoring, frequent two-way feedback should be provided – both what is working and what is not. It is tempting for the manager to dominate this process and only give feedback to the staff member. But a good manager will be open to feedback from the staff member to hone the manager’s performance as well.
  9. Iterate (M/S) – Not everything goes according to plan, and one of the talents of great managers is the ability to adapt when circumstances change. Often things can change that are outside of the control of the manager and staff member. It is important to identify when something has changed and to address it quickly and revise the expectations and commitment.
  10. Success (M/S) – Following an effective commitment model will improve performance of the team and allow for professional growth by both the staff member and manager.