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 each.and.every.day. 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.
Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.