There are a lot of factors that can spell the demise of an organization, the least of which could be a lackluster response to changing market needs, preserving the wrong leadership team, or not adopting new strategies. However, I’m convinced the root cause of failure has more to do with a leader’s commitment.
What do I mean by this, isn’t commitment a good thing? Commitment is an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; but what if you’re unaware that you’re committed to the wrong strategies or business model? Would you know when to change before it’s too late?
In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about the power of “Commitment and Consistency”. He basically suggests that if people commit (oral or written) to an idea or goal they are more likely to honor that commitment because they establish the aspiration as being congruent with their self-image.
For example, if a leader commits in a press release or makes a public presentation that they will expand the business in the East Coast to increase sales, they are committed. The leader has created a self-image based on this commitment and will work to accomplish that plan no matter the costs.
We see it all the time don’t we? Even after a public agreement is made, if the original incentive or motivation is removed, a leader is prone to honor the agreement. This means that even if information starts to emerge that sales in the East Coast will probably not materialize, the leader will convince themselves, and others, that they can overcome the barriers.
This is a scary thought. To know that our own minds will work against our best judgement and long-term interests, in order to protect our self-image. So what do you do?