How do you create buy in?

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How do you get others to accept your plan or course of action and execute it as if it were their own?

We get this question all the time from a leader of a team pushing their people to execute on a new strategy or adopt a new process, but their team members aren’t fully “bought in.” We get this question from individuals who step in to try and solve a problem, but whose peers, another team, or different departments aren’t on board with the solution. Sometimes the question is directed up the chain of command when someone recommends a course of action to their boss, but the boss isn’t convinced it’s the best option.

On the home front, the question is often directed toward a spouse who pushes back against a decision or course of action, kids who refuse to implement guidance, or parents or siblings who disagree with what seems like an effective solution.  
So, how do you get others to buy-in? The answer isn’t complicated.

Give Ownership

No food tastes good when it’s forced down your throat. Likewise, no one likes a plan when it’s imposed on them.

When People Have Ownership, They Are Fully Bought in.

When you give other people ownership of a plan, you don’t have to create buy-in. Because when people have ownership, it’s their plan. They are fully bought in. They want the plan to succeed. As a result, they are far more likely to overcome obstacles and get problems solved to ensure that their plan is successful.

If you are the leader of a team, instead of trying to impose your plan, strategy, or a new process on your team, give your team ownership. Establish for your team the purpose, the goal and the end state you are trying to achieve, and then let the team come up with the plan on how they wish to execute it.

If you recommend a course of action to a peer or up the chain to your boss on how to solve a problem, make suggestions and wherever possible, let it be their plan. Give them the credit.

On the home front, instead of dictating a plan to your spouse or significant other, ask them how they think best to execute toward the goal. Instead of giving explicit direction to your kids on what they should do, identify the goal and give them ownership of how best to execute.

This doesn’t make you look weak. It shows you are strong and confident enough to let others lead. You aren’t relinquishing control. Even if your team, your spouse, or your kids come up with the plan, you still need to have them talk you through the details of their plan so that you can ensure it meets the goals and falls within time and resource constraints to accomplish the mission.

What about when a plan is dictated to you by your leadership and you are being directed to implement it, or “sell” that plan to your team?

First, you need to understand the why. Detach, put any initial emotional reaction you may have aside, and think about why you or your team are being directed to do this. It’s not because your boss or your senior leaders want you to fail. They want you to win.

If you still can’t understand the why, you need to ask earnest questions up the chain of command and get answers to help you better understand and implement the plan.

Once you know the why, you are better equipped to execute and help others on your team understand so they can execute.

When a plan is dictated to you, do your utmost to implement the plan with success. This will earn you leadership capital with your chain of command and increase your ability to influence the plan for optimal success. If the plan is problematic, you should provide feedback up the chain in a professional and constructive manner with suggested revisions that could make your leader’s plan more successful. But if you don’t show commitment and make a valid attempt to analyze and implement the plan, you will burn leadership capital and greatly reduce your ability to influence up the chain.

What about when circumstances require you to dictate the plan to others?  

Explain the why. Create buy-in by ensuring your team, your family, or the person you’re working with understands “the why” so they can execute.

Listen to feedback. If someone pushes back on the plan, instead of shutting them down, listen to them. Analyze their feedback. Perhaps they are right, and you need to make some adjustments to your plan. If they are wrong, you can still hear them out and point out why their criticism or recommendations may not be as effective. This will earn you leadership capital.

Everywhere that you can, give as much ownership as possible.

How do you create buy-in? Give ownership.

Real-world example:

The corporate leadership team of a client company we work with recognized they needed better training for their site managers. This was great news, as better and more frequent training is key to improving performance.

As we followed up with the company’s CEO and COO, they were excited to share the details of the new site manager training program they had developed.

“We need Echelon Front’s help to create buy-in for this new training program,” the CEO told us. “These site managers are busy, and they are already pushing back on us, saying they don’t have time to train.”

“How much input have your site managers had on the program?” I asked. The CEO and COO looked stunned.

“None,” the CEO responded. “We came up with the program.”  
We explained that the best way to create buy-in is to give ownership.

“This even works with my kids,” I explained. “I have a 7-year-old son, and I always encourage him to work out with me. But when I tell him to get dressed and come join me for a garage workout, he often pushes back. He tells me he doesn’t want to, or he doesn’t feel like it. I know he should work out. It’s good for him. He will be stronger and healthier as a result. But the harder I try to enforce my workout plan on him, the deeper he digs in, which can escalate quickly to an outright refusal to participate.”

“After a few episodes of this, I decided on a different approach. Instead of imposing my plan on him, I ask him what kind of a workout he would like to do. I let him choose the exercises, the number of reps, how many sets—everything. I even let him choose the music. It’s his workout. And he executes those workouts without fail, sometimes crushing me in the process.”

“It works with kids, and it works with your team,” I concluded. “The best way to create buy-in is to give ownership.”

After that illustration, we helped the CEO and COO formulate a new plan to give ownership of the training to their site managers. They selected five of their top-performing site managers and asked them if they could help develop the site manager training program. All five eagerly agreed to participate.

The result was a successful training plan where site managers were fully bought in, because it was their plan.

For Action:

Pick one thing this week to which you can give ownership to someone else. Focus on a specific plan, task, or project that you have been running yourself, or where you’ve been inwardly focused on how you want to solve a problem without seeking input from others. Reach out to the person or team to which you can give ownership and seek their input on how they think best to execute.

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