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Larry, Michelle and George had been friends a long time. They met in college, and though they each went to work in different organizations, they committed to getting together once a year to discuss their careers, opportunities and challenges. Over the years they had each risen to senior leadership roles within their organizations. At their most recent annual retreat the topic of team commitment came up.

As it turned out, they were as puzzled after their conversation as they had been before they began. Why? Because they all believed that team commitment was important, and they all felt they had it, and yet the performance of their teams weren’t as strong as they hoped for or felt was possible.

Listen in to part of their conversation . . .

Larry knew something wasn`t connecting for his team in terms of productivity, but wasn`t sure just what. "If anything, we have great team commitment. People understand the organizational goals and have truly bought into that direction. It`s clear from their words and actions that they are committed to our organizational goals. And yet, something is still missing. I`m not sure what it is."

Michelle said, "We’re missing something in the productivity area as well, but my team is committed too. They are staunchly proud of the team - in fact they wave the team banner regularly - I`m surprised they haven`t had t-shirts made! They believe in the team`s role, they know that what they do is important, and like I said, man, are they proud!"

George concluded the comments of the trio. "My team is tremendously committed to each other. They are supportive, give each other great feedback and are always looking out for each other - more so than any other team I`ve ever seen. With all this commitment I`m baffled why they aren`t more successful!"

The conversation continued along a similar vein, with no real conclusions, until the next morning at breakfast.

The Morning Aha

At breakfast, Michelle said, "I was thinking about our team commitment conversation last night, and I woke up this morning with an idea! I think we do all have committed teams - but they aren`t committed to the same things. I think what we really need is a combination of the three types of commitments each of our teams have! Look at it this way . . ."

Michelle then drew three concurrent circles. In the inner circle she wrote "Commitment to Each Other." In the middle circle`s area she wrote "Commitment to the Team." And in the outer circle she wrote "Commitment to the Organization."

With this picture the group discussed the idea at great length and how to build the two types of commitment their teams didn`t have. They also decided to talk in a couple of months about their progress.

The Three Circles

Commitment is critically important to team success. Of course there are other factors for success (like relationships, clear goals and more), but commitment is one that often is overlooked. More specifically, teams need three forms of commitment to be most successful:

1. Commitment to each other and each other`s success. Teams that are comprised of individuals that actively support, believe in and care about the success of each other will be more successful. This type of commitment promotes the comfortable shifting of duties and responsibilities among team members as necessary and allows teams to have less stress and higher productivity.

2. Commitment to their team and the team`s success. Team pride and commitment is important to ultimate success. The commitment that arises from a team that understands their role and relishes achieving it is hard to undervalue. Teams with this type of commitment will overcome long odds due to their strength and unity and willingness to band together to get through a tough situation. Why? Because they see the effort as worth it for the good of the team.

3. Commitment to the organization and organizational goals. When teams see their work as supporting valuable and important organizational pursuits, this type of commitment is strengthened. This can`t be built without a clear understanding of company direction and goals, but with those in place this commitment can grow. Like the internal team commitment, this manifests in organizational pride and a clear sense of obligation to the greater good.

Thinking about each of these separately as a team leader or a team member will help you determine where gaps might be. Hopefully your team has high marks in each area. If not, this list gives you a place to start in building higher levels of commitment in the areas that might be lacking.

Potential Pointer: The important team commitments include commitment to the organization, the team and each other. The stronger and more balanced these commitments are, the more successful and productive any team will be.

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