“Buy-In, Once More With Feeling!”
Buy-in is everywhere… it’s everywhere!
Most of us involved in business, technical organizations, and teams think of buy-in as a common requirement for our success.
Buy-in isn’t just something that managers attempt to secure from their direct reports. Buy-in is a requirement for all human endeavors that require more than one person. Buy-in is the thread, the weave, that holds the fabric of human social structure together.
Every time you see an advertisement that seems to appeal to something inherent in your values, the advertiser is seeking your buy-in.
Every time a politician appeals to your values, beliefs, or needs, the politician is seeking your buy-in.
So how do we get buy-in?
My definition of buy-in is: Buy-in is the “overlap” of one person’s or group’s motivating beliefs and/or outcomes with those of another person or group.
That’s it. There must be an overlap between what the first person or group believes or wants to get with what another person or group believes or wants to get.
If there is sufficient overlap there is buy-in. Insufficient overlap… no buy-in.
And what about work?
Every day you go to work. What for?
If you’re an engineer, what’s your reason and how does it compare to what the company and/or your manager expresses.
Do you go to work for a paycheck?
Do you go to work to express your engineering creativity?
Do you go to work to creatively solve problems.
What do you do now?
Well you are certainly not at a loss of choices.
Choice #1: You could appeal to their desire to keep their job.
Choice #2: You could appeal to their desire to BE an engineer.
Choice #3: You could appeal to their desire to creatively solve problems, and this is certainly an opportunity to do that.
Choice #4: You could pay them extra for the extra effort needed to solve the issue and put the project back on schedule.
Choice #5: You could instill a competitive spirit by noting that if your product is delayed the competition will get to the market first.
Most managers make two major mistakes when it comes to getting buy-in at a time of crisis (it’s relatively easy to get buy-in when everything is going smoothly).
The first mistake is that they think that everyone is motivated by the same forces they are. That is, the manager thinks that what motivates the manager will motivate everyone else.
The second mistake is to think that one motivating force will motivate everyone equally.
The successful manager must be able to step into the team’s generalized map of the world. He or she must also be able to step into the individuated map of the world of many of the people on the team.
Ultimately everyone must be treated as an individual, because buy-in is from each individual, not from the group.
How to get buy-in one-on-one.
The easiest way to get buy-in is through what I call, “Conversational Management and Leadership”. It’s a process of seemingly casual conversation that elicits, from each individual, what their motivational drivers are.
The main message is that buy-in is not a mysterious process. There is no reason to consider it something that “others can do” but you can’t.
Buy-in is in our nature. The challenge is not getting buy-in, the challenge is understanding where the overlap exists between management and the direct reports. Once the overlap is found, buy-in is a natural outcome.