Get Buy-In Up and Down the Organization

Try A More Effective Communication Model: You Go First 

What is “buy-in”? For me, it is when a group of people have worked through the most likely possibilities for their situation, and agreed on what seems to be the best option at the time. You cannot make someone “buy into” your ideas unless you have the communication skills – and maybe conflict resolution capabilities – to illustrate why cooperation with you is in their best interest.

We help our teammates and direct reports – and even those to whom we report – reach this important stage by remembering that it is not change, per se, that people resist. It’s actually the sense of “being changed” that results in most people digging in their heels. Being told what to think about and which perspective to take is a sure way to get my back up. You, too? (Yes, I thought so.)

Furthermore, recognize that any change worth making is bound to generate some resistance, if people are actually thinking for themselves. No push-back means that the change probably isn’t very important. The vital point is whether the people who are pushing back are raising valid points. Are they intelligent, engaged people whose resistance challenges us to search for better answers? If the answer to such questions is yes, then invite the resisters into the tent where they can be useful. They obviously care about the outcome.

So, buy-in is not about swearing undying loyalty to a cause or suppressing one’s own ideas and concerns. For me, buy-in is the flip side of resistance, defined as the “negative expression of an unmet need.”

Self-knowledge is the foundation

The first step in building buy-in is to acknowledge and work with one’s own needs, strengths, and style preferences. And then comes the really hard part – practising what we preach. One of the most important things to understand is one’s pre-disposition toward authority.  Do you tend toward counter-dependent behaviour – i.e., resent and rebel; or over-react in the other direction and become strongly compliant? That’s just as damaging. The latter assumes a parent/child relationship, and that does not lead to good business decisions.

If we want to create greater buy-in, the onus ultimately is on me and you, the subordinates, first to understand ourselves to the best of our ability, and then to extend similar understanding to those in the organization who depend on us –  above, below and all around.


Copyright(c) 2015 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.