You know when you go to Starbucks, or The Dome Café, or Caffissimo and they provide you with a loyalty card? If you purchase 10 coffees, then you get a free one. So (if you’re a coffee/tea/hot chocolate drinker) you stuff the card (or cards, if you visit multiple providers) into your wallet or purse and pull it out dutifully every time you visit so that you can get that free one.

If you’re Scottish, you probably walk an extra mile or so to the nearest coffee takeout chain so that you can get that free 1/11 of a coffee. (I am part Scottish. Connect the dots …) Of course, if the coffee tastes like dirty tap water with a bit of mud thrown in, you won’t be likely to worry about that loyalty card. Likewise, if the service is abominable, you will have no deal, no loyalty, no commitment to that coffee shop as your favoured beverage haunt.

Ramp it up to a higher value item, say buying a new car. Do you continually go to the same dealer for a new car every time, or do you change needs, desires and the car seller you go to? How do you decide which one is better or best? What would influence you to keep coming back and even to refer others? How do you develop the commitment?

In my work with professional services firms, I have interviewed many clients and found that client loyalty is based upon the standard and value of the product provided – time and again – to a client AND to how connected they feel as clients, how clear communication is, responsiveness, proactivity, shared values, how much a professional is acting in the client’s best interests and whether problems are resolved quickly and effectively.

The same is also true of leadership and persuasion in general – your ability to influence people both rationally and emotionally is a powerful predictor of their commitment.

The level and value of the work you provide should both match the level of current client commitment as well as progressively move them towards greater levels of commitment as time, need and opportunity dictate.

I devised the Commitment Matrix™ to demonstrate how differing levels of commitment may be identified:

Peter's Commitment Matrix

™ Lamplighter Performance Consulting

Someone using your most basic product or service might only be in the high logic, low emotion quadrant. Another might be using more of your services and have a teen crush – someone who initially met briefly with you, was excited and said that doing more work with you sounded great, but quickly turned off the idea. Now, the crush may be all you need for a quick one-off service or small product – but if you want something longer term, you will need greater involvement.

You probably want to slowly move clients up to the upper right quadrant by emphasising either the logical or the emotional.

In another situation, a client may be in the upper right quadrant – a committed long-term buyer – but they begin to sour due to bad experiences, or perhaps they start to see a decrease of value of your service. Beware that, at this point, they may be turning away into one of the lower levels of commitment.

Let’s note a leadership example: You wish to initiate a major change in your organisation. Without addressing both the intellectual and emotional reasons for and against change, you are only going to generate more shallow levels of commitment. If you wish to gain long-term agreement and long-term you must emphasise BOTH logic and emotion. In your communications and your planning, you need to take both into account.

The IT giant, Apple, has realised this in all of its design, marketing, hiring and customer support. Both factors are critical in creating committed disciples. And don’t Apple fans sometimes act like they have had a religious experience with their iPhone or iPad?

You need to work with your people to keep them committed. And that comes down to your personal interactions – observing, listening, connecting with them on multiple levels – being consistent and targeted in all facets of your leadership, service and organisation.

Reflect on 2-3 of your more significant stakeholders:

  • Where are they right now?
  • Where do you want them to be?
  • Where are they at risk of going?
  • How will you move them into a higher level of commitment?
  • What is your team doing to ensure higher levels of client engagement and commitment?
  • How can you address more of the fundamental motivators of long-term commitment in both your planning and communication?

The Commitment Matrix is a valuable tool for analysing your clients, people and stakeholders. Remember that for someone to remain thoughtfully loyal over the long-term, they need to have all of their psyche engaged and fired up to be committed.

© 2012 Peter McLean. Follow me on my blog at or visit our website at

Developing Commitment in Others
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