Obtaining leadership commitment

A German manufacturing organization with offices in Pune and Bangalore has unique problem. Their highly talented engineers don’t want to move the management ladder and transition from developers to managers. With limited next line of leadership, and challenges on culture fit of resources from market the company was challenged to scale up quickly.  Management realized the crux of the resistance lied in transforming the technical staff to imbibe and practice a sense of outcomes, urgency and above all review and direct peers and colleagues. The technical staff hated to move out of the comforts of the comradery position which did not require ownership of others. Despite abundant availability of individuals with experience and managerial capabilities the company found its leadership development floundering. The company had tried push of an employee early into a leadership position when he/she was not sure and the haul has been a failure.  It was not the capabilities or the administrative support that mattered, but simply the change commitment of the employee to transform from an individual role to team management role that required planning, directing, reviewing and owning others that determined the success of internal leadership development.  Here we are not talking about the Meyer and Allen models of organizational commitment of the individual and its major components (affective, continuous and normative).   What we are addressing is the emotional commitment an employee invests to implement a new strategy. Passion, excitement, pride and energy are the signs of a committed employee.  To attain this dramatic change of attitude to occur, people must not only accept and agree with the strategy, they must buy into it. Without emotional commitment, even the most brilliant strategies will fail. Growing leaders internally is a process that requires planning, high intensity of follow through, and freedom to emerge from failures What is the best approach to gain acceptance, support and commitment of an associate?.

Based on our experience we propose a six stage model for employee commitment buying process. The process includes: identification, goal enumeration, assessment, alignment, reiteration, and formalization.

First and foremost, one should assess an employee’s interest and passion towards his/her work. As the famous saying states, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life, but celebrate each moment”. Identify and develop them early: Most successful internal leadership programs quickly identify leadership potentials and others very quickly. Look for obvious signs of quality of work, sense of ownership of team, quality of feedbacks to colleagues, initiative for breaks with team, etc

Once the employee is identified her manager may provide bird eye view of the organization’s goals, and immediate concerns, and different team members strengths that are required to reach the goals. The objective of the session is to enumerate the immediate future, how the individual can contribute to the cause and what would be the impact at organizational, team and individual level.  The employee is involved in ideation of the goal, the impact it would create at different levels and what resources may be required at each level. At this stage, the objective is to create vibrant imagery of possible state and acceptance by recipient similar to “to broaden and build theory” of Fredrickson. Manager’s only focuses on strength, latent potential and how fuel it. Communication is selective, articulation is directed laden with vibrant imagery. Positive emotion and sense of excitation changes the individual’s conscious and unconscious drives for better long-term outcomes.

Next step is role visualization and capability assessment. The manager and the associate dwell deeper into the roles. The manager innocuously steers the discussions towards individual’s assessment  of her strengths, capabilities and gaps. Manager directs the flow based on a certain frame that of allows for self-evaluation without the burden of guilt and incapability. Communications are deliberate, are “frame” based thus allowing ruminations in a collaborative environment.  Evaluations are deliberated towards role rather than a person centric.

Next stage is alignment, wherein the manager discusses how the individual can contribute to the organizational goal and fitment of the job and capabilities.. Manager emphasizes the latent capabilities of the employee, reposes confidence in the ability to catch up and expands the role horizon of the employee. The discussion would be open, and transparent to discuss the role expectations, how the role dimensions would impact the short term and medium term, what may be the training and skills sets and sharing of apprehension and experiences. External validation and internal acceptance by the associate is the main objective of this stage. Manager, in this stage, leads the associate with directions towards organizational, team and individual goals as well as supports him in moving forward to achieve the goals. Manager proposes a deliberate break of days to allow the employee to do introspection, carry out minor changes towards the goals and receive internal and external validation of the transformation.

Manager and the employee meet up to recapture the goals, the activities that may be required at organizational, and team level to drive the performance and the individual contributions. Manager digs deeper into the change attempts made by the associate, and appreciates all achievements, however minor they may be. Manager’s focus would be to emphasize the value the associate can bring to the goals and what would be the changes the role mandates.   He also makes the employee reassess oneself to own possibilities of attaining the desired goals and activities. He repaints employee’s motivation to own and drive the desired goal. Once the associate is convinced, the duo need to revisit the drawing board to evaluate the fitment of schemas, assets, roles and acts. In this stage, manager refines and repaints organizational, team and individual goals and describes the best suitable approach for the individual.

The final stage is commitment formalization stage where, goals at various levels are tied, action plans are discussed and detailed, training and support are documented, platforms for information sharing and support are detailed and review mechanisms are accepted. Formalization stage must ensure while the outcomes are important, the pace and tactics are owned by the associate, there is plenty of room for failures and learn without stigma so that continuity commitment is not affected. Formalization stage must also detail informal self-review mechanisms where the individual can elicit the feedback, discuss and digest and push the agenda of improvement by themselves.

Ashwini K. S

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