Want to bring co-workers on board with your great idea?  Start with these three things.

Achieving Buy-in - Twenty HatsWhen I’m with my colleagues, the most common complaint I hear is how difficult it is to bring co-workers around to their point of view. Achieving that kind of buy-in is one of the qualities that separates managers from leaders because it means standing by your vision. The buy-in could be around anything, from finding new ways to engage volunteers to getting people to staff meetings on time. Lack of buy-in can feel like a hopeless situation, but the truth is that you can usually shift circumstances to your favor.

Achieving buy-in is at the top of my mind because I’m preparing a workshop on the subject for my local DOVIA*. As I develop the presentation, I have found many different models for fostering buy-in – all different, some quite complex. But in every approach there are some common threads.

Here are three essentials.

  1. It’s not about persuasion – at least not at first. How many times have you created the most compelling script possible in your head to make your case, only to have it shot down by the person you want to persuade? There’s an element of a power struggle built in to the persuasion concept (“my idea is better than your idea”) that may work against you. If you want to bring people over to your way of thinking, you first need to…
  1. Get inside the head of the person you want to persuade. People tend to see their world view as the only world view. That means that your co-workers are just as convinced that the way they perceive what’s going on in your office is true as you are of your own perspective. To bring someone around, you need to frame the conversation from the other person’s point of view. What are their hopes and dreams? What are their worries? What problems are you solving with your great idea? You need to build trust among your coworkers that you are there to support them as much as you need their support.
  1. Give yourself time. Bringing others on board may require more time than you anticipate. I’m talking about months – or maybe even years depending on the project. Buy-in tends to take much longer in a large or bureaucratic organization with layers of hierarchy and approval. Or – it may just be that your idea does not rise to the top of the priority list as fast you wish. Many years ago, I wanted to shift my nonprofit from a written newsletter to an electronic one. My boss was on board with the idea, but it still took an entire year to make the switch. Why? Other issues kept cropping up for my boss that were higher priority. I had to wait until I had her full attention to make the switch. When it happened, I was thanked for initiating a project she had wanted for so long.

The key achieving buy-in is to remember it’s a process. Stay focused, don’t take the setbacks personally, and keep your eye on the goal. And just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get.

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Getting staff more engaged with volunteers is not about persuasion – at least not at first, https://twentyhats.com/?p=1773

*For the unfamiliar, DOVIA stands for Directors of Volunteers in Agencies