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Ham and Eggspectations: A Call for Commitment

You’ve probably heard the story about the chicken and the pig, both dedicated to the farmer who cared so kindly for them. One day the chicken approached the pig and said, "I have a great idea for a surprise we can give to the farmer!" The pig was intrigued, and urged the chicken to share her idea. “We know that the farmer loves a good breakfast, but he often has no time to make one, right?” said the chicken. “True," said the pig. “I’d be happy to help you make breakfast for the farmer! What should we make?"
The chicken said, "I can provide some eggs." The pig said, "That's a fine start, but we need more. What else should we make?" The chicken looked around for a moment, and then her eyes lit up when she looked at the pig. “How about ham? The farmer loves ham and eggs!" “I see,” said the pig. "You only want to make a contribution, but you really want me to be committed!"
Going from contribution to commitment requires that we filter our relationship with our work through a different lens. I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve gathered during my experience and business education that are critical to building a culture of commitment. They include:
  • Defining universal goals and objectives for everyone in the organization. What is your company’s purpose? To be profitable? To be profitable and make the best widget in the world? To be profitable, to make the best widget in the world and to give back to the community in which you work? What does excellence look like, sound like, feel like in your company? What metrics will tell you when you’ve reached that target? What’s the ROI for your customers, and for you as an organization? Make sure everyone, at all levels, understands the company’s mission, values, and ultimate scorecard, and that the goal is to reach higher than the finance bar. Those who believe in the work that the company is doing will be more likely to make a deep commitment.
  • Giving the power to the people. Employees feel more committed when they are empowered with some decision-making in the course of their work and in how they perform their jobs; and know they have a voice in the direction of the organization.
  • Being consistent… and giving the gift of accountability. Companies that earn the most trust from both internal customers /employees and external ones are those that exhibit consistency and stability. And they also are the ones that have ingrained the word “accountability.” I like the description from Paul Glen’s article (“How to make your people accountable”) in CIO magazine. Glen said, “Real accountability occurs when employees believe these things: that their work matters; they have substantial control over their ability to succeed or fail; the quality and timeliness of the work is important; the rewards and consequences that result from their work are fair; and they have reasonable influence on the evaluation of their work.”
  • Showing employees that key and senior people are committed. If we’re asking others to go from contribution to commitment, we need to demonstrate that the company or organization recognizes the difference between those two positions, and that key leadership and senior staff hold themselves to the same standards that are expected of other employees.

It’s not hard to be the chicken these days – everyone I know is seeking and finding ways to contribute to the success of our companies. But being the pig is a very conscious choice – and for those craving excellence and accomplishment in a tough and competitive environment, it’s really the only choice.

May your company be abundant with pigs this year.


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