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Blog : The Big C


The Big C

Mary Jane Flanagan - Training Director

The power of commitment and how to inspire it.

They say women strive for it, men are scared of it and most students have difficulty spelling it (I guess it's all those m's and t's). Commitment.

This week, I found myself being asked to commit, it got me thinking about this powerful word and what it means. 'Trying' can allow you to fail, 'doing' it is fine but when you commit to it, that's as if you have written in blood 'I WILL DO IT'.

I sometimes use the power of commitment as part of a training initiative. In a recent 'five star' customer service programme for a well known national bank, we asked all 500 delegates to commit to a service charter. From Belfast to Edinburgh, through the Midlands to the South, we asked everyone to give us 15 elements of 'five star' customer service excellence they would commit to. We then used the ten most frequently mentioned, formed them into a charter and called for every delegate sign up and thus affirm their commitment to their service charter. Actually committing to something and publicly signing on the dotted line created a firm psychological contract and helped all 500 take ownership. They felt it was their charter as opposed to something that was dictated to them. As a result, we were able to produce a robust and significant programme that really 'had legs' and people will remember and nurture their charter for some time to come.

I have asked first time managers to be brave enough to commit to running a blame free, solution focused department.

I personally have committed to cycling 54 miles ('failure is not an option' - for those Apollo 13 fans amongst you!).

So this week I was asked to recommit to being awesomely purple, not lilac, not indigo, but awesomely purple. To be focused, creative, tenacious and confidently purple. When all of the purple people get together as a team, from time to time, our leadership makes sure we stay on track with what it means to 'be purple'.

So after a presentation of 'awesome purpleness' from our directors, we were then asked to actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and reaffirm our commitment. They in turn showed their commitment to us by making sure we have the skills, tools and inspiration we need to be awesome. In the current climate when companies are battening down the hatches, learnpurple, as usual, walks the talk by investing in making us even better.

I have never worked for an organisation that has shown more commitment to it's people and its products. Yes we have reviews regularly (and use Talent Toolbox to run them). Once a year we all complete a psychometric assessment (iWAM of course) and we run a session from this around team dynamics. Each of us has joined the purple revolution and we have all just taken the free employee engagement survey (and yes, we'll be reviewing the results at our next team meeting). We have read the books we review on our website and in our newsletter. We all have mentoring and coaching sessions on a regular basis. Our team meetings have energisers, with an element of learning and development in each one. We can tell you our profit and loss results and what the people in each part of the businesses are doing. We know who our clients are and we create relationships with them. We regularly attend training sessions and seminars, either run in house or externally to ensure continuous professional development. We also take on apprentices and work experience students (the last two have asked to join the company when they graduate and we are very happy to accept them!) and develop people through our business. Sounds too good to be true? Actually it is not as our leadership is committed to giving and getting the best.

However what really made me want to recommit was our directors' stump speech, motivating, honest and inspiring. We often use stump speeches in our work with sports stadia and sporting events when we need to rouse and inspire up to 5500 (this is not a typo!) casual staff in one go. We always get results because people walk away energised, motivated and ready to 'fight'.

The origins of the stump speech come from the American Civil war when the troops would travel the south and their leaders would try and attract more troops and keep the ones they had, through the delivery of a short but rousing and heartfelt speech. You may have seen them during the presidential elections when the campaign tours the States making stump speeches to gain commitment to vote and ask people to commit to their manifestos. So Obama eat your heart out, because we have voted for learnpurple's manifesto; we are committed; we are awesomely purple and 'Yes we can'!

When was the last time you made a heartfelt stump speech to your people, reminding them of your vision and values and asking them to commit to excellence?

For our how to be a great first time manager learning bite click here.

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