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Bill Sanford, Senior Executive Trainer at Bell Leadership
Bill Sanford, Senior Executive Trainer at Bell Leadership

Working Hard: 3 Keys to Inspiring Commitment

The first tenet of
The Carolina Way is getting your people to “work hard.”  But Coach Smith and Dr. Bell knew that working hard was never about driving people to put their noses to the grindstone.  It’s not about forced effort.  It’s the player who gets up to run drills at dawn of their own accord: running, training, taking one more practice shot.  It’s the worker who sees a hole in the workflow and proactively steps in to cover it, or the colleague who goes above and beyond to elevate a client’s experience.   

Working hard is the natural byproduct of commitment.  Individuals committed to a noble cause will always deliver their best effort to the work ahead of them.  How do you, as a leader, inspire the type of passion and commitment in your team that results in greater contributions and success? The foundation starts with three key principles. 

1 – Infuse your team with purpose. The majority of us want to invest our time, our energy, our effort in something with greater meaning.  When Coach Smith led the Tar Heels to greatness, the players weren’t focused on personal accolades. Their mission was to uphold the reputation of the team and university and deliver their best to the fans, their fellow teammates, and the coach.  They were playing for something bigger than themselves; the personal accolades just naturally followed. Your organization, maybe even your team, has its own mission.

To inspire greater commitment, make sure everyone not only knows it, but lives it, breathes it, and believes in it.  Help your team understand the bigger picture and how their work contributes to it.  When individuals can appreciate the purpose for their efforts, commitment grows, and results follow.

2 – Embody your core values.  Every coach and every business leader implicitly conveys a set of core values by the way they communicate, how they relate to their team, and the actions they choose daily.  Coach Smith was known for being incredibly honest with his recruiting prospects, never promising a starting position or a certain level of playing time when recruiting new players.  By displaying this core value of honesty from the outset, he set the foundation for the coach’s relationship with their players.  Get clear about the core values you want to convey and embody them in everything you say and do.  Consistency builds trust.  And when team members know they can trust their leaders, they don’t waste time being on guard to protect their own interests.  Relationships built on trust lead to higher commitment.

3 – Empower your people. Once a coach has inspired the team to achieve the mission and instilled core values, it’s time to let them play the game.  At this point, players know what is expected of them. They understand each play and are clear in how their position contributes to the team’s success. Similarly, business leaders should feel confident that their people are well-informed and inspired to do their jobs with minimal guidance.  

Then, the best leaders know to get out of the way and let their people perform the roles they were hired for and are energized to do.  Effective teams don’t require constant supervision; autonomy in their work causes people to work harder with greater dedication to achieving team results. 

In The Carolina Way, Dr. Bell notes that inspired teams work hard naturally. They embody core values, dedicate themselves to a noble purpose, and ultimately achieve the best results.  

Next up, once everyone is working hard, how can you ensure they are also working smart?