During the last six months I have been asking this question, “Have you ever washed a rental car?,” of my clients, prospects, and friends. The reactions are varied, but the answer is always the same, “never!’ My immediate next question is, ”Why not?” Just like a synchronized chorus, the answer is: “It is not mine.”

What is the difference between the rental car and any organization where the employees are not stakeholders? Is the division you lead a rental car? Do you work for an organization where washing the rental car is completely out of the question?

The key point is that the person’s sense of ownership is closely linked to their sense of commitment. So, in other words, if you want to motivate your employees to stop treating their jobs as rental cars, you need to earn their commitment.

To start, let’s agree on a definition of commitment. Commitment means to pledge loyalty to something or someone. Earning the commitment of others to “wash the rental car,” or, in other words, “to help you to achieve your goals,” is complex and simple at the same time. It is simple because there are three steps to earning commitment, and complex because two of these steps are hard to execute.

Step 1 – Create a Strategy

Knowing where the company, division, or department is going and why it is going in that direction are the foundations of success. Once a compelling strategy is chosen and action plans are aligned to it, you are ready to move to step 2.

Step 2 – Gaining Commitment

There are four elements that have to be present in the “gaining commitment process”: motivation, setting expectations, and rewards and incentives.


Motivation is the desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior.

If you don’t have motivation, you won’t get far. Think about this analogy. You have a car with a full tank of gas, a well-tuned engine, a good set of tires, a quadraphonic CD system, and a polished exterior. However, until a driver sits behind the wheel, puts the key in the ignition, and cranks it up, the car doesn’t function. You guessed it; the KEY is MOTIVATION. Even with a great car like the one just described, if you do not have enough motivation to drive it, I can bet you will never wash it. Now, you can imagine how difficult it would be to wash a rental car.

As leaders of an organization, providing the tools to help individuals to gain self-motivation is providing the key to goal achievement and success.

Setting Expectations

It sounds simple, but how do you implement a strategy to motivate people in your organization to do whatever it takes to make the strategy work successfully.

  • First, identify your top performers.
  • Second, find out what makes them top performers. What are they doing, and how are they doing it? Understand the key responsibilities of their position. What contributes to their success? What are their obstacles? What should be changed to make them better? Use the answers to these questions to identify the best practices and create the basic model of the perfect clone. What do they do? What do they know better than the others? Do they build better rapport with prospects? Are they doing something different in their buy/sell process?  Do they have a different skill set than the rest? Is their value system different than middle and bottom performers?
  • Third, establish in writing precisely what you need in terms of results and the behaviors, values, and skills required to make them happen.
  • Fourth, communicate the program effectively so everybody has a consistent understanding.
  • Fifth, reward people as soon as they achieve the result, not at the end of the quarter or fiscal year.

Rewards and Incentives

Once you have established what is expected from a person, you next have to align it with your rewards and incentive systems. It is not unusual to underinvest in linking what you want with how you will reward the people who help you get it. Incentive systems require a lot of thought and planning, and when you get it right, the results follow quickly.

There are different ways to reward behaviors and provide incentives for the top performers to continue their top performance. The real opportunity in companies is the other 90% of employees who fill the middle and bottom tiers of performance. This is where you will see the largest increase in productivity. The most common and easy way to reward people is with additional money. However, there are other methods that are equal to or potentially more effective than a raise, quarterly bonus, or additional stock options in the company. Promotions, recognitions, constructive criticism, career tracking, exciting assignments, extra time off, more or less responsibility, opportunity for personal development and satisfaction, are some of the different forms of rewards that can be used.

Step 3 – Confidence in the Process

Doug DeCarlo, in “Extreme Project Management” defines Commitment this way: 

Commitment = Desire + Confidence.

The first two elements mentioned before, motivation and reward, will generate the desire to perform at a higher level, but “confidence” can be a little more difficult to achieve. Doug DeCarlo has a good recipe for confidence in the early going of any project:

 “People need to experience short-term success with you and your process in order to give their commitment.” You are building their confidence in “you” in order to gain their commitment. This creates a pool of energy that will lead the strategy to a successful achievement.

As you can see, the “gaining commitment process” or “How to make people wash a rental car” is a very stimulating journey that will make people excel and will lead the organization to a new level of performance. It is a simple and complex process that when executed well leads to extraordinary results.

As an Executive Coach, I help individuals and organizations develop better attitudes more rapidly and produce more satisfying results. I work with my clients in all areas, including business, career, finances, time management, productivity, and relationships. As a result of coaching, clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and more fully use their natural strengths.

If you wish to explore deeper into the subjects contained in this article, please call Activate Group at (305) 722 7213, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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