Friday, January 07, 2011

Emotional commitment: The most important Manager Commitment

A manager's emotional commitment is the ultimate trigger for their discretionary effort, worth more than financial, intellectual and physical commitment combined. It's the kind of commitment that solves unsolvable problems, creates energy when all energy has been expended, and ignites emotional commitment in others, like employees, teams and customers.

Emotional commitment means unchecked, unvarnished devotion to the company and its success; any legendary organisational performance is the result of a bunch of emotionally committed managers.

Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted, said Einstein. This is a guy who conducted early nuclear experiments on his own hair and so is perhaps not your most reliable organisational thinker; still, he had a point.

The really important measurements of emotional commitment include the ones a company can't see until managers need to show them. Ferocious support for the company when the company needs it most is one of these hidden metrics.

Any manager can appear fully productive and enthusiastic simply because they're financially, intellectually and physically committed. But if you've ever witnessed a human being emotionally committed to a cause — working like they're being paid a million when they're not being paid a dime — you know there's a difference and you know it's big.

The old conflict

It may be big but it's not easy. The key neurobiological source of emotional commitment is the ability to live your own deepest values in a relationship or environment — I'm not telling you this; your brain is telling you this. As a manager this means the relationship with your company and your environment at work.

Manager may be a great job to have and you may be having a great time doing that job but embedded in the job description of any manager is the requirement to constantly subordinate or compromise personal values in favour of company priorities.

What your company wants done and how it wants it done must regularly take precedence over your own deep preferences. This is what it means to be a manager: serve your company first.

A company is an organism and like any organism its natural first priority is to survive. It needs managers to survive and it needs them to marginalise their own values and beliefs in favor of company goals and methods. As the company believes it needs to be the dominant organism in the relationship, it causes managers to detach emotionally from their jobs.

To really get that emotional commitment, a company would have to reattach managers to their own deep drivers — allow them to live their own values and act according to their own personal codes.

This has Company Nightmare stamped all over it. If managers were allowed to live their value of Family, maybe they wouldn't work 50 hours a week, stay away from home constantly or constantly take the job home with them.

If managers were allowed to live their value of Integrity, maybe they wouldn't represent a product to customers as performing the best and at the lowest cost when it doesn't, it isn't — or it doesn't even exist yet. If managers were allowed to live their value of Health, maybe they would resist conditions of constant stress.

If managers were allowed to live their value of Freedom, maybe they would demand autonomy in decisions that must be executed exactly as conceived.

It is understandably the great fear of the corporate organism: If I set you free to pursue your own priorities, you'll leave me and I'll die. The problem is, managers are already free. They're free to detach, which is about as free as one can get. The company may have captured their minds, their bodies and their pockets, but that doesn't mean it's captured their hearts.

The New Truth

The cause cannot always be the company; instead, it must also be managers' pursuit of their own values within the company. This isn't licensing chaos; it is ensuring control. There is no more reliable way for the company to become the cause than by not always insisting on being the cause.