How can you drive commitment?

One thing I suggest to clients is that communication leads to commitment. What we tell others we’re going to do, we’re more likely to do. I also talk about setting aside time to do the important things – drop them into a calendar.

For instance, if you have a strategic and tactical plan, your commitment to it is strengthened if you publicize it. It’s also stronger if you ensure that the plan elements gets dropped into the relevant schedules and calendars.

Of course, this isn’t particularly original advice. In her very useful book about personal habits, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin talks about the strategy of accountability in entrenching good habits and avoiding bad ones. A running buddy, a Facebook announcement, a personal trainer appointment – these are all ways of making personal commitments public, and they help us reinforce accountability.

I’m inspired by some recent ways I’ve seen it work, for me and others:

  1. I gave some workshops over the winter on tactical planning – translating strategies to reality through a purposeful process. During those sessions, I said that I would be publishing a white paper on the topic, to capture the richness of the discussions we were having, and to give people a tangible resource to work from. Without that commitment, I’m not sure I’d have produced the white paper as soon as I did. (And here it is!)
  2.  The fabulous Rachel Stephan of sensov/event marketing and I made a deal last year that we would talk quarterly (at least). We share insights from our clients and businesses, give each other suggestions, and cheer each other on. But how does this actually happen? We schedule it a year in advance.  Otherwise, it would very likely remain a good intention. Or it would even be something that causes us regret, because we don’t make the time.
  3. A few years ago, a client had an ongoing challenge with the relationships between the various components of the organization. If you’ve dealt with issues between the HQ and the chapters/branches/caucuses/special interest groups, you know these issues. They’re just about everywhere. But as I worked with them, this association set a strategy to deal with these challenges head-on. They made the commitment – and shared it with their components – to ease tensions and reduce overlap and duplication. It wasn’t something they could do alone. But it was something they alone could decide to devote serious resources to. And I’ve recently received a document that tells me that they have gotten very far indeed down the road of collaboration and harmony with these various components. Communication alone didn’t do all of this, as it took a great deal of work and discussion, but it surely helped cement the commitment.

So, is there anything you’ve been thinking about doing that needs some kind of external accountability to get going?

  • Can it go on an agenda? (And not just “Revenue” but “Challenges to revenue model due to changing membership profile” – articulate as much as you can what you need to talk about.)
  • Can it go into your schedule? (If something is important, you’ll need time to deal with it.)
  • Can you set up a meeting with someone? (Even an appointment way in the future can help create the commitment to think about something, albeit not right now.)
  • Can you announce it to your team/family/board/staff group/collaborators/membership? To the world? Can you attach a timeline to your commitment?
  • Can it go into the budget? (Even a small line item tends to bring focus to an issue.)

If you’d like to talk about how we can help you make plans that you’ll actually commit to, please get in touch. And for our latest white paper, Turning Strategy Into Action: Tactical Planning for Associations, please click here.

Photo by Jason Roosevelt, via Unsplash. Used with permission. 

Contact us at or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


We offer resources to help leaders of associations and other not-for-profits think about their approach to strategy and governance, from various perspectives.