Leadership – Dealing with the Non-Committed – The 3 ‘R’s

“CorporateTheatre” workshops explore how high-performance or ‘natural’ teams are formed when a group of people (even those who do not know or like each other too well) come together, get clarity of a common goal, and commit to a collective success. We also explore how this is achieved by facilitating the right environment rather than by changing or converting people and making them egoless. In fact, the underlying theme is, do not expect people to drop their egos. Instead, align the egos to a collective goal and success through appropriate goal and role definitions and conducive performance-appraisal and reward policies.
In the process, one of the recurring questions that I encounter is on how to deal with people who are not committed to the team’s goals. Such people end up distracting even those who would otherwise be committed and who could contribute value to the team’s performance. Sadly, the more high-profile, or charismatic the non-committed person is, the more the distraction he or shecreates. The presence of non-committed or non-aligned people often end up creating unnecessary conflicts and consequently considerable wastage of time and energy. This can cause a great deal of pain and unhappiness.
Strangely enough, even among experienced leaders, there is a misconception that a ‘good’ leader is one who can take everyone along, who can motivate the inspire even those who are not currently inspired or motivated, and are committed to reforming individuals who may be negative in their attitude and outlook, into positive contributors.
As Jim Collins suggests in his book, “Good to Great”, it is important to have good people on the bus. It is equally important to get the wrong people off the bus. A team or an organization responsible for delivering customer-centric excellenceunder changing and challenging conditions, cannot be primarily a counselling centre or reform school. Their task is not to get people with the requisite skills and then motivate and inspire them. While good leaders can be motivating and inspiring without doubt, their primary responsibility is to get the right people who along with their qualification and experience are also energised and internally motivated individuals, put them in the right places, empower them, and make it clear across all interdependent roles and functions, what is the common goal and what would constitute collective success, as well as the rewards that await successful performances and outstanding contributions.
One of the Zen stories that we use as a script for theatre productions in the”CorporateTheatre” Leadership workshop compares leadership styles to fire, and water. Fire is very visible, powerful, and aggressive. However, in a very short time, fire not only burns everything around it, but also itself, and all that is left is a handful of ashes. In contrast, a river is so gentle, it can scarcely be felt, so silent, it can scarcely be heard as it embraces the low ground on its journey, nourishing and nurturing everything in its path, assimilating other streams, growing ever larger and larger, eternally achieving the objective of merging with the ocean.
Even so, a river is not always gentle. While it does not feel the compulsion to be tough, ruthless, and visible all the time, if the river finds an obstacle in its path, it re-deploys the obstacle. If the river finds a mountain in its path, it flows around the mountain. If it cannot flow around the mountain, the river carves through the mountain. A river can be decisively and conclusively tough with anything thatblocks its path towards the objective.
As experienced through this parable, if an effective leader finds someone in the team who is not align-able, whose concept of personal success and growth is not in sync with the team’s goals and culture, there are three options available. The first is to Re-align the person. Do everything possible to make the person realise that the team’s success can contribute considerably towards the fulfilment of his or her personal objectives. If this is not possible, Re-deploy the person. Put them in some other assignment where there may be the possibility of alignment, and where they will not be a distraction to those who are aligned. If that too is not workable, there is only one more option – Remove the obstacle.
(As repeatedly reinforced through “CorporateTheatre” workshops, it is veryimportant to keep in mind the difference between Competence and Commitment. In a natural team, everyone is not expected to be equally competent. Competencies and competency levels can vary from time to time and task to task. Commitment however, has to be the same, at 100 %. One cannot be 95% committed just as one cannot have 95% integrity.)
Being a ‘caring’ team or ‘caring’ organization is no doubt, a very positive and desirable thing. However, we need to decide whether we want to be caring to the one person who is not committed or the 99 others who are committed and who may lose out in some way because of the distraction, cynicism and negativity caused by those who are not aligned.


One thought on “Leadership – Dealing with the Non-Committed – The 3 ‘R’s”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr Mathews,
    Fantastic article. Extremely insightful. We are interested in holding a corporate theatre workshop on leadership conducted by you in our organization. Request you to please share your contact number to discuss further details.
    Thanks and Regards,
    Pooja Dager

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