Commitment: The Secret Ingredient of the Successful 4th Sector Entrepreneur

As we engage with 4th Sector Entrepreneurs and consider how we might help them grow their social impact we often find ourselves asking why do some people go from success to success while others never seem to get going?

What’s stood out from every interview we’ve had with successful 4th Sector entrepreneurs is their strong commitment to social justice, which gives them a willingness to take risks that others may have questioned. So many have talked about how they have experienced fear, uncertainty and discomfort but been able to work through it due to their commitment to their overall goal.

We have found that a model developed by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach, a highly successful company that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, which has spent over forty years coaching entrepreneurs offers a simple but insightful model to explain how this works. He calls this The 4Cs Formula.

The starting point is for an individual to make a commitment to achieve a specific measurable result by a specific date in the future.

This commitment requires a level of courage to move forward, as it means someone often has to take action before they have the capability to achieve that result.

Once they’re courageous to make that first step though, the necessary capability soon follows which in turn breeds confidence.

It’s simple.

Why is commitment first?

Because without a strong, specific commitment it’s enormously difficult to get started at all.

Sullivan describes commitment as something that’s created when you make a sale to yourself. In other words, it requires you selling yourself on doing something that you don’t feel you have the capability to pull off.

As he says,

“We often talk about sales in terms of selling to someone else but actually the first sale that you have to make to advance… is to sell yourself on a goal… to intellectually engage… with a future desirable result beyond your capability.”

The commitment stage is all about stating a particular result. When you do this you immediately move into the Courage phase – what you need in order to address all the fears and worries that making this commitment immediately creates.

What is courage?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“Fear defeats more people than any other things in the world”

When faced with the possibility of failure, especially when in a position of responsibility, we all experience fear – but we all have a choice on how to respond.

Courage can be defined as the willingness to go forward even though you don’t feel confident about success and are tempted to procrastinate and stop.

Sullivan talks about courage as a skill rather than an emotion and therefore something that he believes anyone can develop. And while exercising courage is something that doesn’t always feel comfortable, he emphasises that it’s essential if you’re going to increase your capability in order to achieve a higher level of confidence. Courage creates a rush of adrenaline that puts your brain on high alert, which in turn sharpens your sense of urgency, simplifying your priorities and decisions and giving you the energy to move forward.

Crucially, it’s also a key stimulant for creativity because, as Sullivan notes,

“Innovation occurs in the dynamic zone between courage and capability. The moment you take that risk for the sake of something bigger and better your brain becomes creative, innovative and inventive.”

Capability Creates Confidence

So being courageous – with a clear commitment to a goal – drives the energy to innovate and develop new, more powerful capabilities. At which point it’s inevitable that your confidence will jump.

These capabilities can cover a variety of areas – personal, team, funding – but in essence what they mean is that you’re now able to do something today and in the future that you couldn’t do in the past. That you have confidence in your ability to deliver. A sense of certainty and calmness that you can achieve your goal.

Beware though, confidence can easily create complacency.

When you feel good about things there is always the temptation to enjoy yourself and relax. It’s so often seen in the sporting world, where an individual or team wins something big and then loses the commitment to continue to develop. Inevitably, someone else comes through to beat them.

The only way to combat this is to go on to make a bigger commitment that puts your confidence at risk. That’s why Sullivan talks about The 4Cs as a closed loop, where it’s crucial to keep flexing each muscle – commitment, courage, capability and confidence – to keep things moving forward.

As Chief Commitment Officer it’s a cycle of growth that you have to live, not delegate.

So how committed are you to what you say you want to achieve?