Be Careful Not To Become Over-Committed To Commitment

Patrick Woods, May 26, 2020 12:31:02 PM

We all place considerable emphasis on commitment. We work hard to confirm our people are both committed to our organisational vision, and to ensuring that customer expectations are being met. Our investment teams are measured, at least in part by their commitment to philosophy, process and portfolio construction. Why even most LinkedIn profiles feature commitment as a key personal quality.

But can commitment sometimes create liability?

A colleague, keen to demonstrate commitment to the cause acts without fully thinking through all potential consequences. A leader determined to demonstrate commitment to an assistant when for almost everyone else it appears to constitute a defensive of the indefensible. I recall a period of my career, when as a member of an investment strategy group, I was deeply convinced of and passionately committed to an investment theme that was not a widely held industry view. Nor, as it turned out, was it a strategy that many of my clients could buy into.

The bigger problem was that whilst I listened to the comments and observations of my clients, I was blinded by my commitment to my strategy team’s thesis. Arguably what I should have been doing was actively asking questions of my customers which would have produced more useful answers, that would have provided better guidance towards a decision more relevant for my clients. In fact, the optimum solution might have involved these questions being asked by someone completely detached from the commitment to the investment thesis. I learned an important lesson the hard way.

Living as I do on the edge of a beautiful rural environment in Scotland, I have witnessed how the committed river salmon leaping upstream will occasionally meet an equally determined stork. Sometimes in order to make sustainable progress what we require is help in identifying an alternative route forward.


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