Power of Commitment with Frank Wagner

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“Commitment requires believing in something you care about—whether it’s your family, your nation, or your profession—and acting consistently with that belief.” – Frank Wagner

I had the pleasure of speaking with Frank Wagner, Ph.D., a behavioral coach specializing in leadership, commitment, teamwork, organizational influence, and executive coaching. 

Frank is one of the founding partners of Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder-Centered Coaching.

We discuss: 

  • The common ground among leaders
  • The relationship between commitment, beliefs, and integrity
  • Connecting your behavior to what’s important

The common ground among leaders

The common ground among leaders

How do we trace common denominators for a successful leader, and what does that mean for professional development?

Frank and his good friend Marshall Goldsmith set out to answer those questions, and they did so through the thorough study of leaders from multiple backgrounds.

“We put together a training, which was very, very well received.” Frank explains, “And all we did was study excellent managers and capture what they did.”

The challenge was that they were all different—they talked differently and were of different ages, genders, etc. There was no clear marker of similarity at a glance. 

What did they have in common?

“We were focusing on what they did and their behavior, and we were struggling with how to organize it.” Frank explains, “What we finally came to realize was the common ground. One of the things that were very common among all of them is every one of them had extremely high integrity, and they were humble, meaning they didn't come across as ‘yes, I'm so great. I'm a great manager, a great leader.’ That wasn't the way they were at all.” 

As Frank and Marshall examined their findings and discovered these themes, they found that each leader built their performance around commitments—from commitment to their customer base to their organization to driving results. Achieving success was a commitment to their people and the teams they worked with, as well as a commitment to themselves.

The relationship between commitment, beliefs, and integrity

The relationship between commitment, beliefs, and integrity

Commitment is more than accountability and the will to succeed—it speaks to the heart of the matter, the driving force to serve and see things through to the end despite the circumstances.

“The first thing is, commitment requires a belief in something. Most people commit to many things, but you have to believe in it to show commitment.” Frank shares, “Then the second thing is, you better act consistent with that belief. That's the integrity part.”

Genuine commitment requires consistency between what we say and what we believe in—what are we committed to? Is it aligned with what we believe? Are we acting on our words? 

The framework of analyzing commitment this way works for personal responsibility as well. From marriages to friendships to parenthood, the ingredients are consistent.

“I was looking for a common framework to help understand how you maintain your commitments, and I came up with two almost opposite things you do for any area you're committed to.” Frank shares, “The first thing: if you're committed to something, you support it, you demonstrate strong, positive support for what you're committed to. The second thing is: if you're committed to anything, you're committed to making it better. You don't rest on your laurels.”

The best leaders are constantly reaffirming and maintaining their commitments. They don’t take their foot off the gas. 

Based on Frank and Marshall's research, they define commitment by these main traits: 

  • A wholehearted belief in the commitment(s)
  • Integrity around that belief 
  • The strong support of the commitment
  • A constant willingness to improve upon the commitment

Connecting your behavior to what’s important

Connecting your behavior to what’s important

Our behavior drives our results—this is not a new resolution. There are countless books, podcasts, and studies about how habits shape our lives and directly impact our outcomes. So, how do we narrow down our actions to benefit what is most important to us in leadership roles?

There are three main components to being a committed leader: 

  • Focusing on what’s important
  • Leading by example
  • Rewarding success

Focusing on what’s important

“I see many people that I think are committed leaders, but there's a disconnect between what they're doing, what they think is important, and what other people think is important.” Frank points out, “A good leader makes sure there's a common understanding of what we're doing, why it's important, and what's important.”

If we align our sense of importance with our team, we save time and support more substantial results. Whether that’s conversion rates, retention, or budgetary—determine the top goals and communicate them consistently. 

Leading by example

Before we ask someone to do something, it’s worth considering if we are willing to do that task or give that sacrifice ourselves. Leading by example means reducing or eliminating hypocrisy in our requests and commands. 

“It's not your words that matter; it's your actions that matter.” Frank shares. 

Rewarding success

It’s common for us to compliment and reward strangers and acquaintances with higher frequency and ease than we do our nearest and dearest. You would think it would be the other way around, and yet, time and time again, we prove the reverse.

“Who are you rewarding? Are you ignoring your stars as a leader because they don't need them? And then: what are you rewarding them with?” Frank shares. 

Take a good look at who is getting recognition, and adjust accordingly. You may be surprised at what you find.

What are you committed to? How do you maintain that commitment each day? 

Be sure to check out Frank’s full episode for further insights on commitment and leadership, and learn more through Frank’s new book, The Power of Total Commitment: A Leader’s Legacy.