Business decisions are built on the assumption that people can achieve more together than they could alone. Learn about how the purpose of commitments is to coordinate action.
- Why do you have any conversation? Why would you engage someone else in just doing something with you? Well the simple answer is because you think that together, you can achieve something that you couldn't achieve alone. So it's better to enlist the cooperation of the other person so that you can achieve the result that you want. Now that's the basis of every human action. You want to get something that you couldn't get unless you did what you are doing right now.
That's the logic. So whenever you're discussing an opportunity with someone, or you're at work and you're imagining how are we going to get this done, there's an underlying assumption that you couldn't be as good as the two of you together. But the objective is never to talk about something. The objective is always to get something done. The conversation itself is instrumental. What you want, through the words that you exchange, is to coordinate action, so you achieve a result.
I mean if you look around and if you really pay attention, you will see that most agenda items in meetings are let's discuss this, let's talk about this. Talking is frivolous. I mean, if it doesn't serve the purpose of achieving a result, it doesn't mean anything, and yet, most people are trapped in this, I call it voodoo management, like, oh but we talked about it, like, you know, if you talk enough about something, it's going to happen. Well it won't. You can talk until you're blue in the face and nothing is going to happen unless you and your partners do something, and coordinating action is the purpose of commitments.
Most of us will just discuss what to do and then it's, okay, we make a decision, and we'll be fairly light about clinching the deal, as I call it. We'll just say, well, you know, we're going to get this done, and well, you do this and I'll do that, and then, you know, we kind of trust that we're going to do what we say we were going to do. And the truth is that there are just too many times when that doesn't happen. People don't fulfill what they said they're going to do. And I personally don't feel also that it's a big deal to do what other people expect me to do, because we finish the conversation in a state of confusion, in a state of abstraction, in a state of, well maybe yes, maybe no, if I can, I'll get it done.
So what I'd like to establish with you, so that you can establish it with the people around you, is a certain seriousness, a certain integrity, that has to be personal, and it's the integrity of your word, the integrity of commitments, because when people make promises to you, they will deliver on those promises, or you will have the grounds to hold them accountable in a way that you don't have if you just had a conversation.
So the goal of this conversation that you and I are having is for you to be able to elicit the cooperation of other people and hold them accountable if they don't do what they promised they were going to do. Let's get rid of what they said they were going to do. If you finish a conversation with a statement of purpose, you failed. You have to finish the conversation with a promise from the other party to do something. Hopefully, they'll get it done, but if they don't, then you'll have the grounds to get back to them and say, hey, you promised something and you didn't do it.
What's that about? You see, it's a contract and you cannot be too flippant about contracts. You have to write them down. You have to sign them. And that's what makes a contract worthy of the paper it's written on. If it's just words, they have a saying in Spanish, I come from Argentina, that is that words are blown by the wind. Now when you speak, it's just wind. When you write it down, it's tied. Now, we're not going to write down everything we say in business, although I'll teach you how to do something similar to that with an email, but just the formality of establishing a personal promise will make a massive difference in the reliability of the commitments people make to you.
- Setting up for success
- Eliciting commitments
- Making clear requests
- Holding someone accountable
- Repairing the future by re-establishing trust