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Commitment is vital to effective teamwork, collaboration, and results.

One of the most frustrating aspects of teamwork is the feeling of futility – of spinning your wheels. You connect with one another, establish clear success criteria, get curious, and build on one another’s suggestions, but nothing happens. Your conversation needs to produce action, or nothing changes. And if nothing changes, it’s worse than if you never had a conversation. Now you’ve wasted time, trust drips away, and people lose hope. The answer is to build shared agreements – commitments – that move you from words to action. In this final installment of our “Great Teamwork Series,” we share 12 collaboration habits to create commitment and build momentum with follow-through and results.

More in this excerpt from our interview on Brainwaves Anthology with Bob Greenberg.

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12 Habits Great Teams Consistently Do to Create Commitment and Build Collaboration

1. Ignite Action: Turn intentions into activitiescreate commitment say no card

Habit: I get things going—moving the conversation to create specific plans

When your team has tight conversations that lead to meaningful results, trust and morale improve along with the team’s capacity to make even more meaningful decisions. You can help your team avoid endless discussions, analysis paralysis, and chokepoints by moving conversations to intentions to specific actions.

Related Article: Help Your Team Do More-Stop (over) Talking and Start Doing

2. Say “No” for a Better Yes: Explain tradeoffs and gracefully decline opportunities that derail critical effort

Habit: I keep us focused on what matters most and empower a strategic “no.”

Related Article: How to Say No at Work: Powerful Phrases to Stand your Ground

It’s never easy to say no at work. After all, you want to be helpful, responsive, and a team player. And yet, every time you say “yes” to something or someone, you’re saying “no” to something or someone else. One way to help one another create commitment and say no effectively is to start with a “yes.” Do this is by affirming the request and the value the request might represent—that’s the “yes.” Then bridge to the context, consequences, and decisions—that’s the “no.”

3. Keep Things Organized: Provide structure the team needs to work efficiently

Habit: I make it easy to collaborate and integrate our work.

Can everyone find the information, tools, and data they need to do their work? If not, you’re wasting time interrupting each other asking for what you need or in frustrating fruitless searches. A little organization will help everyone work more efficiently. (Just avoid the temptation to over-organize. You’ll know this happens when you spend more time on the organization system than you do on your actual work.)

4. Create Ownership: Verify that every task has a specific person responsible for its completion

Habit: I ensure we conclude our meetings or conversations by clarifying responsibility.

When everyone’s responsible, no one is. Guarantee that any conversation requiring action ends with a specific person taking responsibility to follow through on an assignment. The project may require a team. But one person has ownership and responsibility to follow through.

5. Respect Confidentiality: Build trust with appropriate discretion and privacy

Habit: I protect sensitive information.

Related Article: Confidential Information – What to Say When You Can’t Say Anything

It can be tempting to share private information. It feels like a shortcut to building intimacy and connection. But every time you violate confidentiality, you tell the person you’re talking to that they can’t trust you with critical information. When you can’t share information, be honest about it. For example, “That’s not something I can talk about. It’s important that to me you can trust  that if we’re ever in a similar situation, I won’t talk about it then either.”

6. Schedule the Finish: Create shared appointments to meet, discuss, and conclude tasks

Habit: I confirm specific deliverables and timeframes for when we will follow up on our commitments.

You’ve got more to do than time to do it. Your plan is going to get interrupted, and your interruptions are going to get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen. Effective teams consistently achieve meaningful results and build a healthy culture–but they don’t leave it to chance or a heroic act of willpower. They create commitment by scheduling the finish with specific, shared appointments to follow through. These conversations consider competing priorities and adjust accordingly.

Related Article: High ROI Leadership: Schedule the Finish

Create Commitment schedule the finish card7. Hold Others Accountable: Practice peer-to-peer check-ins and closure

Habit: When people don’t follow through, I follow up with them.

Look at the research about high-performing teams and one universal characteristic jumps out. In high-performing teams, accountability isn’t just the manager’s job—the team holds one another accountable (and their manager too). When you talk to high-performing teams, it’s easy to see that this team accountability doesn’t just happen. They work at it. Help your team succeed by following up and creating closure for commitments.

Related Article: Great Teams Hold One Another Accountable (You Can Too).

8. Honor Deadlines: Get work done on time and watch out for barriers

Habit: I take our commitments seriously, and proactively talk about obstacles that might derail our deliverables.

The distractions that creep up and disrupt our follow through feel like a surprise. But are they really? When you lift your gaze, look outward and ask “is there anything that could prevent us from making this commitment?” you can help your team anticipate and deal with these disruptions before they interfere with your focus.

9. Keep My Team on Track: Help your colleagues maintain focus and avoid distractions

Habit: I ensure our team meets our obligations together.

One of the most tempting distractions that can take you and your team off track is other meaningful work. That new shiny assignment may be great for your career – and so is delivering the results you’ve promised. You can help your team maintain focus and a manageable workload by suggesting “Let’s get this done before we take on that new project.”

Related Article: Get Your Team Back on Track: Leading Through Distractions

10. Do What I Say: Keep your commitments

Habit: I follow through and keep my word.

Can your team rely on you? Your reliability directly affects your team’s trust in you. Can they rely on one another? Often, when reliability breaks down, it’s not because people lack integrity, it’s because they said “yes” to something without fully thinking through what it would take to keep that commitment. You can increase your reliability by consistently scheduling the finish and discussing tradeoffs. (See #2 and #6 above.)

11. Speak with Candor: Give the gift of truth, spoken gracefully

Habit: I address difficult issues directly and in a timely manner.

Direct, honest communication helps everyone know where they stand and minimizes drama within your team. The earlier you address challenging situations, the easier they are to resolve.

12. Celebrate Success: Acknowledge wins in all their forms

Habit: I acknowledge wins, progress and learning.

You get more of what you encourage and celebrate, so take time to recognize all that you and your team have achieved together. You can do this in the middle of projects to energize one another for the road ahead. Pay attention to the different forms of “wins” – it’s not just successful completion. You can celebrate learning, progress, and improved capacity.

Related Articles: True Gratitude: More Than Pleasantries or Recognition and Leading Through Rapidly Changing Priorities

13. Your Turn: What habit would you add to create commitment and build shared agreements?

Note: This article is part four of our 4-part Better Teamwork Series. Find the other parts here:

  1. Better Teamwork: 12 Practical Habits to Build Deeper Connection
  2. Great Teams: 12 Practical Collaboration Habits to Create Clarity
  3. Creative Teams: 12 Habits that Foster Curiosity and Collaboration

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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