The Commitment Engine

"A business is only alive to the extent that there is commitment."

- The Commitment Engine, page 1

There’s a very simple equation at play here: the opposite of commitment is apathy, apathy leads to irrelevance and, in this hyper saturated world of ours, irrelevance is the kiss of death for any business.  Commitment is not a nice to have, it’s essential.

So when we talk about “commitment” to a business, who are we talking about?  Employees?  Shareholders?  Partners?  Clients?  Yes, to all of the above and anyone else who engages with your business in any way.  In the words of John Jantsch, author of The Commitment Engine, “Getting noticed these days is less about shouting and more about sparkling.” We sparkle when we stand for something – something so clear that anyone who comes in contact with our companies can’t help but understand it and get caught up in the movement we’re creating.

The Commitment Engine is a book for business leaders about how to create that sparkle.  How to connect with the driving purpose of our businesses and share it in such a way that people connect with it and want to play a role in supporting it.  Through a well crafted and idea-filled book, Jantsch gives us practical ways to infuse every component of our businesses with the characteristics that drive engagement:

1. Inspiration
2. Innovation
3. Play
4. Community
5. Convenience
6. Simplicity
7. Surprise

One of the best ways to drive engagement, Jantsch shares, is through the power of story.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

It's all in the story

"You've got to find symbols and stories and metaphors that invite and allow every part of your business eco-system to embrace the strategy."
- The Commitment Engine, page 68

There’s nothing engaging about aloof businesses and dry corporate speak.  If you want people to truly connect with you, your company and your brand, you need to let them see the human side of what you do.  The best way to do this over and over again in an engaging and enlightening way is to become a collector and sharer of stories.  As Jantsch explains in The Commitment Engine, there are four story types that all business leaders need to understand:

The Passion Story
As a leader, this is your story; the story of why you were compelled to start this business in the first place, and what it means to you.

The Purpose Story
This is the story of the change you want to see in the world.  It’s your company mission, or a story about the clients you serve and why the work you do matters.

The Value Proposition Story
Why you?  What are you doing differently/better/faster/smarter/cheaper that explains why people who believe what you believe should do business with you?

The Personality Story
What can people expect when dealing with you?  Are you efficient or are you friendly?  Are you scrappy or are you smooth?  If people were to compare your company to a song, what would it be?

Picking one story isn’t really enough.  In order for people to understand your company so well that they become committed to your success, you need to tell all four stories, and you need to do it again and again and again.  We all love a good story.  What stories are you telling?

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Customer Story

"Imagine taking your best, most loyal, most vocal customer with you on your next sales call and asking her to simply explain the real benefits she's realized because of the work you've done for her.  That's the power of customer-generated content when done right and that's why you need to routinely find ways to acquire it."
- The Commitment Engine, page 210

Your customers – especially your best customers – already know your story.  That’s why they’re buying from you.  Do you know why they’re buying from you?  I suggest you find out.

Whether it’s through feedback surveys, client roundtables or (imagine this) actually asking them, you need to find out what part of your story resonated with your client enough that they would buy from you.  I actually recently just went through this exercise of asking some of Actionable’s best clients why they chose to purchase Actionable Workshops and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s an incredibly eye opening experience. This is by no means gospel, but here’s what I asked them:

1. What initially attracted you to [our product]?
2. What’s your favorite thing about using [our product], now that you’ve been using it for a while?
3. What would you like to see removed, added, or improved?

Three questions + 5-10 minutes on the phone = amazing customer insight.  I highly recommend it.

One other thought for you on collecting customer stories  – what could you automate to collect stories moving forward?  How could providing you with stories actually add value to your customer’s experience with your company?  Food for thought.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Sales Story

"Think of it this way: the sale is not complete until the customer is so happy that she confidently makes referrals."
- The Commitment Engine, page 197

Making a sale is exciting, I don’t care how big a business you are or what you sell.  (And if it’s not exciting, I think that’s worth looking at.)  I love Jantsch’s reframing point, though, on not thinking of the sale as complete until your client is confidently making referrals.

In The Commitment Engine, Jantsch suggests looking at the sales process from “the end” back to the point where the client’s never heard of you and thinking through what you want them to experience at each stage of the process.  The new thinking here though is that you would start well after the sale has been made.  For example, what do you want the client experiencing six months after the sale has been made?  Then work back to two or three months after the sale is made.  What about after one month?  Seven days?  Immediately after purchase?  The stuff leading up to the purchase is usually where we spend most of our time and mental energy and that’s important.  But the sale’s not complete until the client is happily making referrals. Time to extend our thinking.

John Jantsch is a fantastic writer.  His passion is obvious, his examples are excellent, and his exercises are highly actionable and thought provoking.  In this book in particular, I love how easily he moves from employees to customers to partners and back again in his exploration of the power of commitment.  This is a book absolutely worth reading –  for small business owners in particular, and anyone looking to re-inject their professional lives with a little bit of purpose, in general.

“Before we start, let me ask you this: what’s going to change in your business and your life if you continue to operate in the same manner you always have?”

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Chris Taylor

ABOUT Chris Taylor

Founder of Actionable Books, Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks...
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