insight magazine

Corporate Minds

How to Win Commitment

These five meeting techniques will guarantee your next great initiative is headed for success.
Rose Cammarata, CPA, CGMA VP & Controller, Mattersight

Over the years, I’ve seen so many good ideas and promising projects fail before they ever really started.

Sure there was some excitement and fanfare at the beginning—everyone was on board, someone stepped up to be the project manager, all the key stakeholders were identified, and a hopeful “kickoff” meeting was held with all in attendance. Then, 15 minutes in you could sense that something was missing. Nine-out-of-10 times that something is commitment.

The one thing I can tell you is, without commitment that great idea you or your team came up with, or that new initiative that’s going to take your business to the next level, is heading straight for demise.

Even when you manage to get the “right” people on your team, any and every idea, project, product, new initiative, what have you, still requires commitment from everyone involved in order to succeed.

Unfortunately for most of us, a commitment of time and effort is no small ask. In today’s business world, most of us are juggling multiple priorities—both personal and professional—at any given time, which means we need something in exchange for our commitment (try telling that to your boss or project manager).

But seriously, it’s an underlying psychological need and it differs for each and every one of us.

Some people need to feel like they’re critically important to the success of the project before they'll commit. Others need something more tangible to gain their interest and commitment, like a project plan. Of course, the more people involved, the more challenging it can become to earn the support you need.

So just what can you do to make sure your team is made up of both the right people and the most committed people?

Over the course of my career I’ve learned a variety of meeting techniques that, when executed together, have proven to be consistently effective. Here’s what you’ll want to do within the first few minutes of your first project meeting to ensure it’s destined for success.

1. Start on time

Doing so sets the tone for how the meeting will run, while also showing respect for everyone's time. I like to reserve the meeting space for a few minutes before the meeting start time so I can make sure everything is ready to go.

2. Recognize everyone

Going around the room and identifying everyone and their importance to the success of the project is good for many reasons, including making sure everyone understands which of their skills is vital to the project’s success, and exactly the role they play in a big picture sense. Just don’t forget to adjust your approach depending on how many people are in the room. For larger groups, recognizing departments or functions rather than individuals is acceptable. In any case, keep it succinct, specific and sincere.

3. Build interest

Explain why the project is important in terms that matter to your team and the company as a whole. Help individuals make the connection to the bigger picture, and give them something to believe in. Belief is more important than most people realize. If you, as the person leading the kickoff meeting, aren’t perceived as believing in the project, then you’ll significantly diminish your team’s commitment to its goal.

4. Set the tone

Collaboration and idea sharing drive success. Let people know their feedback and opinions are welcomed, appreciated and expected. It doesn’t go without saying.

5. Set goals

Present the project's key milestones and highlight any important due dates, but don’t overwhelm everyone right from the start. Focus on three or four points, and distribute a more detailed plan for later review if needed.

These techniques have been indispensable to me over the years. If you have a few under your sleeve, write on in and let us hear about them.