Goal is the target. Commitment is the dedication of intent to achieve the targeted goal. Goals are pointless without commitment to their achievement. The process remains a theoretical exercise until it culminates in actual output. Goal-setting merely sets the stage for what comes next. Behaviors must be initiated that produce action directed to fulfill the goal. Once a target has been identified, something must occur to bridge the gap between the current present and the desired future situation. That seems to be a function of commitment.
Commitment has to be more than “being involved.” Remember the old story about the difference between eggs and bacon: the chicken is involved while the pig is committed.
To use another analogy: if the goal is the destination, then commitment is the vehicle fueled with energy to get you there. You can't get to Paris until you start moving.
Some like the analogy of commitment as a vehicle but ask what fuels the commitment energy. As Curly’s classic answer in City Slickers went, “that’s up to you to decide.” All depends on your motivations. Maslow, Hertzberg, et al have waxed prolix on that. My book on it (Performance Management Workbook, Prentice Hall) has a lot of chapters on such dynamics.
Your fuel could be geothermal, created by geologic compression (primal physical hunger?), solar (desire for recognition), atomic (self-actualization?)…. Pick your poison… one of the Brennan’s Laws is, “everyone has a reason when they do something that made sense to them when they did it.” Even the craziest decision seemed like a good idea to the actor at the time the person acted.
Motivations are self-generated and cannot be injected into people like a fuel; so the analogy fails there. You can’t transfer or force motivations either, although many foolish people or naïve employers think they can. Best anyone outside the actor can do is to provide the maximum variety of potentially attractive positive consequences that will engage the personal motivations of their people. Offering me maternity benefits at my advanced male age don’t turn me on any; but I’d be a lot more excited about an opportunity to assure post-retirement financial security. One would inspire and motivate me a lot more than the other.
Notice the dynamics: the employer dangles a variety of goodies and I pick the carrot I like best, the one that fuels my motivational engine of commitment power up to full revs. Everybody is exactly like that: totally unique!
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. After over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review and will express his opinion on almost anything.
Creative Commons image "Goal" by ekkebus