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Types And Levels of Commitment

By Jim Mathis

There are different kinds and varying levels of commitment. My favorite analogy to describe the differences is the bacon and eggs breakfast. In the preparation of this breakfast, it could be said the chicken the supplied the eggs was involved, but the hog that provided the bacon was fully committed.

Some people seem never to be able commit to anything, while some are quick to commit and just as quickly, to un-commit. Others are slow in committing, but once a decision is made they go all out, with enthusiasm. I find myself in the last group.

A number of years ago my wife and I were involved with a weekly Bible study group. We met every Thursday night for about seven years. We only missed once or twice during that time, and then solely because we were away on vacation. There were six couples in this group, but it was rare when all 12 of us were in attendance. This was always a mystery to me – why people could not hold to their commitments.

I eventually figured out that people commit differently – some to other people and some to the event. For us, the Bible study was only somewhat important; the relationships, however, were extremely important. We were committed to the people, not the event itself. It would have been easy for us to choose against attending the study, but we felt we could not let our friends down, even though most of them consistently demonstrated through their actions that we were not as important to them.

The same principle has applied to involvement in business settings. My wife and I might try to commit to an event, product or service, but more often than not, we find ourselves committed primarily to the people that are involved. This is why, when a procedure or program is put ahead of relationships, we often find friction. For this reason, we seek to do business with people we like. The best companies understand this – they hire for personal qualities they desire and then train for skill, not the other way around.

Some personality types, however, are inclined to commit more to events. Here is a little test: Assume you and a friend are planning to do something together, perhaps to a movie, and that person has to cancel plans. Do you choose to go anyway, finding someone else to accompany you or going by yourself, or do you reschedule for a time when your friend can go? Situations will vary, but each of us has a tendency either to be committed to an event or schedule, or to people.

A few years ago I was on the board of not-for profit organization and we made a conscious decision to stop being event-driven and start being people-driven. I do not know for certain whether we accomplished much more, but we found ourselves a lot happier and appreciated the relationships we developed all the more.

Especially in crisis, you need to understand the commitment level of people that are with you. As it says in the Bible, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

In most instances, having friends with commitment levels comparable to the chicken offering eggs for breakfast is sufficient, but sometimes what you need is the person willing to make a “whole hog” commitment.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and recently has opened a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

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