The Meaning of Commitment

What is “Commitment”?

The way I was trained as a coach, the concept of “relationship” is described as having 3 basic pillars.  Our relationships are only as strong as each of these pillars.  When I use “relationship” in this context, I mean any interaction with any other person.  It might be a spouse or a co-worker or it might be the guy who gives you your coffee at Starbucks.  This concept (and this article) applies particularly to business relationships – your clients, customers, employees, co-workers, etc.

The three pillars of relationship are trust, communication and commitment.  (Thank you Source Point Training.)  Today I am writing about the commitment pillar.

I teach a class on business-building tools and one of the tools I teach is commitment.  It was at first challenging for me to explain commitment.  Although I felt I knew what it was, it was difficult for me to explain it.  I knew a lot of things about commitment, such as:

1.  Commitment is evidenced by the actions you take and not by what you say;

2.  We can always tell what we are committed to by the actions we take;

But I did not know how to explain this concept as a foundation of relationships with others, particularly in a business context.  Then I met a man who illustrated the concept for me.  This is what happened:

Last year, my 9-year-old son, Connor,  wanted to play basketball.  A classmate’s mom suggested Connor join her son’s basketball team because they felt they had a very good coach.  We signed up.

It did not take long before I saw what she meant.  The first thing I noticed about Coach Bryan was that he has 3 young children, the oldest of whom plays on Connor’s team, and that his wife and kids are at every practice and every game.  The second thing is that Coach Bryan dresses impeccably.  He is always clean and well-pressed and this alone set him apart from the other coaches I met in that league.

The league my son plays for is coached, as most are, by parents.  They are not professional coaches.  Most of them are die-hard fans.  During games, most coaches were out on the court yelling at the kids and the refs.  Not Coach Bryan.  He stood on the sidelines and with a motion of his hand a child would run over and take direction.  I never heard him raise his voice.

After every game, Coach Bryan called my son on the phone (and I have to assume every child on the team) to thank him for giving his all in the game.

At one point, the league was trying to get indoor courts to practice on.  It wasn’t working out and every week, the league would change the venue.  Often they did not communicate with parents in time for us to  know where the practice would be.  Coach Bryan or his wife would call us every week and tell us where the practice would be held.  After a couple of changes in location, Bryan took the initiative to stop the changing.  He called and said, “We have an outdoor court.  The changing around isn’t working for us.  Let’s just stay there.”  We did.  While other teams went from court to court, we always knew where our practice would be.  The basketball hoops did not have nets.  Coach Bryan brought nets for the hoops every week.

After our first loss, I heard him give a speech to the team.  He said, I want to apologize to you for not training you better to be ready for that team.  He listed all of the areas where the children needed to improve for themselves so they knew exactly what they had to work on.  And he took responsibility for the loss as their coach.

Eventually, the coach created a newsletter that had interesting stories and facts about our team.  It highlighted a different player every week.  In a league where coaches would rarely call and tell us if the venue had changed, he was giving us newsletters and written changes.  He bought socks and shorts for the team so they would match on the court.

It was very clear to me that this man had a commitment to our team as a whole and to the players individually.   As I observed him, I learned what is involved in showing someone you are committed to the relationship.

  • It is true that commitment is apparent in the actions      that we take.  Other coaches      talked about being committed, but failed to show up for practice, learn      our children’s names, or tell us when the venue changed.  Coach Bryan did not talk about      commitment.  His actions went above      and beyond what was “necessary” or “required.”  He seemed always to be asking, “What      else can I do?”
  • It is true we can tell what you are committed to      by the actions that you take.       This coach was committed to the children learning basketball and      loving it and giving it their all.       He was committed to the families of the children being      involved.  I saw this by the actions      he took.  He was committed to each      child knowing their unique contribution to the team.
  • The biggest thing I      learned about commitment is this — go      above and beyond.  Do more than      you have to.  Do more than is      expected.  Do more than anyone else.  In an environment where other coaches      did only the bare minimum expected of them, Coach Bryan established his      own standards.

How can you bring this commitment to your business?  What do your customers and clients think of when they think about you?  Do you stand out to them?  Do they feel special to you?  Or do they believe that they are just another account?  Do you do the bare minimum that is expected of you or do you do more?

Sometimes we get so caught up in the business of our business, we forget to show our commitment to the people we do business for or with.  Without the people — the relationships — there would be no business to do.

If you are a business owner, you need to stand out.  You won’t do this by delivering only what you have promised.  This shows a commitment to a minimum standard.  To stand out, you must demonstrate a commitment to a higher standard — a standard that you yourself get to set.

Connor’s team went all the way to the final championship game and lost by one point.  It was something to be proud of.  Some people blamed the refs for the one-point loss.  Coach Bryan told the kids to be proud of what they had done, that he was proud of them because they gave their all.  He refused to blame the refs.  As a result of his commitment, we went to the championship.  As a further result, Connor loves basketball and is proud of himself because one man went above and beyond to show him the game and to demonstrate commitment.

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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