Have you ever been in a situation where you have said, “I told you so”? Those words include the thrill of being right (I for one live for these moments of being right!). But these words indicate that a person didn’t follow your advice. What good is that? Who cares if you were right, the person didn’t believe you enough to follow your recommended action, which resulted in the unfavorable outcome you predicted.
A mentor of mine shared this advice with me when I told him a story where I ended up being right about what would happen if someone didn’t follow my advice. He said the fault isn’t on the person for not following the advice, but rather on me for not being able to convince the person to take my advice. This really changed my mindset and approach when convincing people to believe me.
Every client we work with needs internal buy-in of some sort. They need to convince their peers and leaders that their recommended action is necessary to move forward. This could be to solve an existing problem or to address an anticipated need. You are the advocate for your work and the work of your team. Hierarchy or not, most organizations require buy-in to new ideas. Rightfully so – organizations operate as a whole and certain parts affect other parts. Think of it as a machine. If one lever gets stuck, it can have adverse effects on the whole system. Same goes for a company – a decision made in marketing can have an effect on HR, operations, finance etc.
We encourage buy-in for the success and longevity of a project we work on with a client. So how can you convince others your idea or project is worth pursuing? Here are a few ideas:
- Present the facts. If we can learn anything from lawyers, when they present an argument, they start with the facts. There is no arguing with a 50% attrition rate or 20% brand awareness in the market. These are problems that need fixing. If you don’t have the facts, your argument will not be as strong, so consider doing your homework before presenting your idea. A hunch isn’t enough.
- Explain the effect on the business. You have your facts, so what? What effect will this have on the business? Be prepared to explain why a high attrition rate or lack of brand awareness matters.
- Go on tour. They say most deals are made on the golf course. This means that conversations don’t always happen in the boardroom. Be prepared to meet with as many people as possible affected by your proposal and share your ideas, with the facts and the effects – particularly the effects on that person’s particular world. You’ll get a sense of the sentiment around you so there are no surprises and you can refine your argument when it comes to the decision-makers. There will be people who don’t agree because maybe your idea will impact their world negatively. Be prepared for this, and point out the positives (this is why steps 1 & 2 are important). You won’t be able to please everyone, but the influencers are those you want to please the most.
- Own it. Your message in every interaction you have should be about the project for which you need buy-in. You should live and breath your argument and don’t back down. They say the simplest messages are the best, and that applies here.
These are just a few tips to create buy-in, and hopefully you’ll end up like this guy. Here are some other references about buy-in that might be useful:
- Buy-in: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter
- All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
- How To Get Employee Buy-In To Build Exceptional Culture from Fast Company
Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.