Organization & Leadership Consulting

What Motivates a Person or Team to Commit?

Happy diverse team of employees with a commitment to work

If only everyone was motivated equally by the same things, leading people would be much easier. Can you identify your employees’ motivations for committing to something that is going to require a sacrifice from them? You want more than a ‘clock-in and clock-out’ attitude behind their actions. It helps to know what really fuels the fire in each person.

How do you create the kind of commitment that will help your team perform optimally?

Employees are not clueless.

They sense when they are perceived as merely a means to an end. When that happens, they will likely disengage at some level. Research shows a leader who ranks high in the Honesty-Humility dimension of personality is more likely to inspire cooperation and trust from employees than a leader low in Honesty-Humility. Organization development expert Edgar Schein argues that the behaviors of those leaders at the top become the model of what the group ultimately defines as normal and that over time, a culture is established accordingly. 

To create a culture of deeply committed employees, an authentically honest-and-humble personality must be experienced by them from you before they will fully commit to your vision. Without it, they will hold something back as a fail-safe. A truly humble leader wants their deepest level of commitment for their sake as well as the organization’s. 

In 1991, John Meyer and Natalie Allen published a three-component model that defines various psychological states of individual and team commitment. Neither one is essentially wrong or negative because life circumstances may warrant one motivation over the other. It is also reasonable for two or three to co-exist. The three components are:

  • Affective Commitment = an affection-for-the-job-based motivation that says, “I want to be here”. 
  • Continuance Commitment = a fear-of-loss-based motivation that says, “I need to stay here”. 
  • Normative Commitment = an obligation-based motivation that says, “I feel obligated to stay here”. 

While all three are reasonable and effective motivations, generally, Affective Commitment sustains greater efficacy over the long haul. The relationship between a person’s type of commitment and the quality of their experiences will impact their attendance, job performance, contributions to organizational outcomes, and interpersonal behaviors. 

What can you do as a leader to generate more Affective Commitment?

Demonstrate an authentic Honesty-Humility dimension through initiating a comprehensive 360º review and follow-through process with yourself as the subject. The follow-through phase especially will convey an authentic commitment on your part to greater interest in the well-being of your people when it comes to their experiences with you and each other. 

Contact TurningWest for a trustworthy approach to such a Review. 


Leave a Reply