How Often Do You Ask For Commitment?

I have never missed a deadline here at FOT in 7 years. And I don’t plan on it. I’ve come close–but I’ve never crossed that line.

If you don’t know–we have a wonderful Editor, post-manager, whip-cracker in Ms. Cara Lucas. Her job is to schedule us cats and make sure we get something witty, smart, new and different up on the FOT site Not an easy task if you think of the human material she has to work with. Just read the list at the right. Not your normal law-abiding citizens. Am I right? I am.

But that’s not my point. My point is that when Cara came on board I told her that I had never missed a deadline. I hadn’t. And the mere fact that I hadn’t missed one–AND–that I told her I hadn’t did something to me psychologically. It made me even more compulsive about not missing a deadline. Even if I had to write a post up to the minute before she hits “post” on the WordPress dashboard, I will have a post up on my day.

That is the power of “commitment and consistency.”

We Are Humans

Commitment and consistency is an influence technique whereby you ask people to commit to a direction–a task–and have them agree to it. Once people say “Sure, I’ll do that,” they have this deep-seated desire to make sure they follow through–after all they committed to it. Now, if you can tie that to their history of performance then you have a double whammy of commitment and their need to remain consistent with the past behavior. Bam!

So–when I tell Cara that I haven’t missed a deadline in 7 years and she asks me if I’ll continue to hit my deadlines how much pressure do you think I put on myself to get these posts up? A metric ton of pressure!

Who Do You Ask?

Now… how often do you in your role in HR use this simple technique for getting people to perform? I can tell you from my experience as a manager– not often. But you can get more people to hit their goals simply by asking them to commit to them. And if you can link that to a situation in the past where they have behaved similarly, then you have a very powerful tool for getting compliance. Think of all the times you’ve begged, borrowed or stole to get someone to submit an expense report or fill out some form.

Who knew that simply asking them for a commitment would make it that much more likely they will hit their due date? (Well–other than me.)

So, next time you need something done… instead of simply telling people when the due date is, send a “pre-notice” out to everyone telling them when the date is (in the future) and ask them to respond if they will be hitting that date. Most will respond in the affirmative. And most will also want to remain consistent with that commitment. The percentage of people hitting their due dates should go up significantly.

I know–a long post to say something so simple as… Ask people to commit before you ask them to perform.

Will you try this next time?

Hit me in the comments and let me know. I’m betting you will.

FOT Background Check

Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is the Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul is a recognized authority on incentives and performance motivation. Want to know what’s going to motivate your people to perform at their best and impact the bottom line? Want to know whether your service award program really means anything at all? Curious what psychological principles drive sales behavior? Paul’s your guy… unless you fervently bow down to Maslow. Check out his personal blog at "What Is Paul Thinking?" when you're tired of his FOT rants.


  1. Cara says:

    Your commitment of meeting post-entry deadlines is much appreciated, Paul! 🙂

  2. Kris Dunn
    Kris Dunn says:

    Paul –

    Digging the post, but have one thing for you to comment on.

    Sales leaders are notorious for asking sales reps to make a commitment to the plan they’re supposed to execute/quota they’re supposed to get to. Do you feel that’s a good or bad way to do it and why?

    I’m guessing it comes down the ability of the rep to negotiate the commitment they’re being asked to make, right?

    Thanks – KD

    • Paul Hebert says:

      There is a difference between being asked for a commitment on an unreasonable goal.

      As a sales manager… assuming that the goal was made with reality as a baseline it can be easily positioned along the lines of …

      “Frank – we’ve been working on putting goals together for the sales team. We did a bit of research and we know you’ve been pretty successful at hitting your monthly goal fo X about 80% of the time. Does that sound about right? Great. So you’ve been on target with your sales effort 8 out of 10 months and we’re asking you to continue to hit with that kind of consistency. Do you think that is something you can continue to do? Is there anything that you think may stop you from continuing to hit your goals? Great – then we’ll make that your goal for the next 12 months.”

      Big difference when you position a target as something the person has done in the past, asking them if they can continue to perform at that level and then giving them an opportunity to discuss any roadblocks to being consistent with that performance in the future. What normally happens is the goal is dumped on the person – no conversation and almost as a threat with a gun to their head – they are asked to commit to the number. That isn’t the same as pointing out how they have performed in the past and getting them to acknowledge that performance and asking them to commit to continuing that effort.

      It is difficult to say no to that when you know you’ve done it before and you’ve been given the opportunity to talk about it.

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