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How To Gain Buy-In From Your Team

When my daughter was in elementary school I chaperoned a group of second-graders on a field trip to the ArtPrize exhibition in downtown Grand Rapids. Picture this: ten 8-year-olds, excitedly dashing around parks and gardens, in and out of exhibition buildings. They were so excited to experience the art displayed throughout our city. Naturally, their first impulse was to run. And touch. And cross streets without supervision.

Their enthusiasm was beautiful. The chaos it created was exhausting.

As their field trip leader, I was constantly balancing the twin needs of safety and exploration. When getting ready to enter a building or cross the street, I’d instruct, “Blue team, line up! Green team, line up!” and they would do so, but only until the next amazing new sculpture (“Look, a dragon made out of pop cans!”) presented itself.

Getting people to line up— whether it’s a group of second-graders or a team of colleagues— can be challenging.

Why Is Team Buy In Important?

Team buy in is important to any change you want to make or idea you’d like to advance. As my story about the Art Prize exhibit shows, there are myriad factors that get in the way of “lining up.” It’s true that your employees aren’t elementary school students; the adult challenges your team faces are more complex. Yet, they have this in common: they’re human. And humans have many fascinating reasons for deciding whether or not they’ll give you their commitment to an idea.  

The stakes are high for leaders who need to get people to line up behind an idea. As change expert Phil Buckley, author of Change on the Run told me, “Ultimately, the people impacted by a change decide its level of success. Either they advocate for and take pride in enabling the change or don’t take ownership of it and block adoption.” 

For team leaders, when it comes to getting great results in the workplace, it’s not enough to lay out a great vision. In order to get people to act on the vision, leaders need alignment from their team members. They need people to buy into the “big idea” that the vision embodies.

How?  Many leaders think that enthusiasm carries the day when it comes to creating alignment. They think, “If I get excited about this project or goal, then others will too.” But enthusiasm is only one-third of the people equation.

How to Get Employees to Buy into Your Vision

According to the book The Work of Leaders, research into the best practices of leaders identifies two other facets to getting people aligned with a team vision: creating clarity and inviting dialog. Here are a few tips to help employees buy in with using these elements.

Create clarity

Just because you see the vision doesn’t mean your team does. Head off misunderstandings by doing this:

  • Offer a solid rationale for the vision—giving “inspirational” speeches won’t be enough to sway people.
  • Identify your key message and deliver it consistently, to all levels of the organization—upwards, laterally and with your team.

Invite dialogue

When you invite others to help you shape the vision, you are showing receptivity to their ideas. Questions to ask:

  • Who benefits when we achieve our vision?
  • How will we embrace this vision each day?
  • What is the evidence that our vision is being realized?
  • Why do you think this vision is important?

Fostering enthusiasm for your vision helps generate excitement and build momentum. Creating clarity about your team’s vision provides a road map for how to live the vision each day. Inviting dialogue helps draw people together and provides a forum for open discussion.

What are you doing today to help get your people aligned to your team’s vision?

Updated in 2021

Disclosure: the concepts of Enthusiasm, Clarity and Dialogue come from the book The Work of Leaders. There is a corresponding Work of Leaders self-assessment. For a free sample assessment, contact me. I’m an authorized independent partner for John Wiley & Sons, the publisher that produces the Work of Leaders assessment.

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