Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interest or Commitment: Knowing the Difference Could Change the Way You Manage

One of my clients recently sent me this quote from Peter Drucker that has had me reflecting on its true message and how it is applied, especially in business:

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”

For me, being interested implies a passive mindset whereas commitment seems active, which is confirmed by dictionary definitions: “the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose”. While interest is associated with curiosity about someone or something, commitment is the “act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action.” Interest is more cerebral perhaps while commitment is both cerebral and visceral. Isn’t commitment what we want and need in our organizations to be successful? When leaders talk about connecting to the ‘heart and the mind’ aren’t they referring to commitment?

I have a few thoughts on how to listen for and instill commitment day-to-day in our businesses:

Strategy: is business strategy a story that inspires people to bind themselves to the direction in which you want to go?

Leadership: before employees are committed, leaders have to demonstrate their steadfast fixity of purpose. It’s a trait not a slogan (“We are committed to our employees.” “We are committed to our customers.”)

Culture: is the business environment a community that binds people together to achieve a common purpose or a federation of possibly interesting activities?

Employees: is the hiring process geared more toward uncovering interests than discovering commitment?

Customers: do we expect commitment from our customers while only being interested in what they can do for us?

The late Peter Drucker’s ideas and writing continue to provide enduring lessons of what motivates people and moves organizations toward a higher level of performance. As I said to my client as we exchanged emails, Drucker was a no nonsense thinker who understood the duality of our 'heart and mind' selves.

Does anyone have a favorite Drucker thought?


  1. Barbara:

    I definitely believe in the employee area that commitment means you have their heart and mind and it is a very "active" way to behave at work.

    My favorite quote from Drucker is...Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

    I love that from a measurement's perspective.

    Great post-


  2. Hi Cathy
    I had forgotten that that quote was Drucker's: thanks for the reminder.
    I really had to step back on this post and think about what these words mean. It's so easy to toss off concepts and assume everyone has the same definition. When I dug deeper into "interest" and "commitment" as Drucker explained them, the differences really popped out. God Bless Peter for making us better thinkers!!

  3. Barb, great post. Too often leaders mistake employee interest for commitment -- no wonder we often don't get the results we anticipated. This is great food for thought!

  4. Theo,
    Thank you for the comment. I agree that we sometimes don't dig too deeply into what inspires action. I think Peter Drucker clearly saw that management is an art and a science and is not an easy practice. But without excellent leadership and management, I'm not sure how organizations survive, let alone thrive.