By Fred Kofman
Philosopher and Vice President at Linkedin
Decisions are worthless unless they turn into commitments.
Talk is cheap. That’s why it’s easy to decide. Action is expensive. That’s why it requires commitment.
A commitment defines clearly who promises to do what by when. And who has the right to hold him/her accountable for his/her word.
The typical commitment derives from an accepted request. To keep the conversation on track it is essential to ask clearly.
To make a clear request you must utter it in the first person, using direct language and addressing it to your counterpart in the conversation. You must specify observable conditions of satisfaction, including time, and require that the person respond as clearly as you asked.
It helps if you explain your purpose for asking, and, if and when you arrive at an oral contract, you ask your counterpart to “sign” it.
Although there are many ways to ask, the most effective one I know follows this pattern:
- In order to get A (a want or need),
- I ask that you deliver B by C.
- Can you commit to that?
It may sound odd to ask like this; you can adjust your language to suit your culture. For example, instead of saying, “In order to explain to your team the importance of their work to us, I ask that you organize a meeting with them in your production facility next week. Can you commit to it?” You could say, “I would like to visit your production facility to meet the team that will work on our project. It would mean a lot to me to know them personally and explain to them the importance of the work they’ll do for us. Would you be willing to organize a meeting with them next week?”
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