The biggest blocker to the success of your strategy, sales & marketing plan, or innovation is your people. Not all your people, just those that don’t understand it, or believe in it, or simply don’t know what it is. Achieving buy-in is critical to the success of your biggest ideas.
A recent survey showed that 88% of the resistance to a company’s strategy comes from middle management and front-line workers. An executive recently shared with me some of the frustration that this brings. “The plans and strategies are agreed and it is rolled out to the organization, but 6 months later, nothing is done. They are waiting for “it” (the change) to go away or they want you to do the work.”
That doesn’t have to be the case. Make a plan to achieve buy-in, so that you can accelerate results from your innovations, plans and strategies.
“In a matrix organization, your ability to get anything done is all about achieving buy-in.” Executive Director, Emerson Automation Solutions
Achieving buy-in doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take forethought and effort. Here are some tried-and-true ways to gain buy-in for your biggest ideas, innovations, and strategies.
1. Bring the blockers in early and make them owners. You know who they are. In every organization and within every team, there are a few people who resist change, either passively or overtly. Whispering to colleagues over coffee. Outspokenly challenging the new plan / strategy / etc. and stating “This won’t work. We’ve tried this before.” How do you deal? Identify those individuals early… and make them part of the plan. Review it, get their input, give them ownership… while it is still in draft form.
My former Shell colleague, Jeremy, was brilliant at this. He would listen carefully to feedback, ask a few good questions, and then say: “I’ll incorporate that into the final version.” And he would! In most cases, it was wording choices or a changed nuance, and didn’t change the overall direction and plan. But, it made people feel heard and respected, and ultimately created shared ownership.
2. Invite challenge and use to make the strategy or plan stronger. Ask open questions “How can we improve this?” or “What’s missing?” and “How can you sell this to your customers/ suppliers/ team/ stakeholders?”
3. Have your elevator pitch ready. Be ready at a moment’s notice to share your vision and paint a picture of the future state with this new strategy, investment or innovation. To every “How’s it going?” be prepared to respond with “Really good. Have you heard about…?”. Pitch your vision, what it will mean to that individual, and grow their understanding and support.
4. Use visual storytelling. Just like a proud parent happily brings out pictures of their new baby, have visual aids ready to go. When I was leading Shell’s re-entry to polyethylene and gaining buy-in for the new business, I had a 5-slide deck, heavy on visuals and short on text, that went everywhere with me. At a moment’s notice, when someone would ask a question about the investment, I could bring out those slides and share the vision, the market impact, and the opportunity… with visual cues. Approximately 65% of adults are visual learners. Using pictures and visual cues helps cement your case-for-action in their minds.
5. Identify their questions… and have a response. This isn’t the typical set of FAQs that are heavy on text and short on insight. To build buy-in, you need to be really thoughtful in those questions and answers, focusing on the “why” and what it means for the people you are engaging.
6. Walk a mile in their shoes. A figurative mile, not a literal mile (although that’s okay too!). Seek to understand what this change means for them. Does it impact current customer relationships? Change their job and their ways of working? Do they need new skills or resources? Understand the impact to the individual and what their concerns may be. Then, have a response or solution to help overcome that challenge.
7. Demonstrate that you’ve considered other options. Sometimes, the simplest way to overcome objections and achieve buy-in is to show that you considered other options and points of view, and that, as a result, you’re clear on your recommendation for the organization. Nothing stops a challenger faster than giving them options and the logic surrounding your recommended solution.
8. Identify ambassadors. Create a support network for the change. These are people in different parts of the organization who, quite frankly, have some degree of influence with their peers. Use them as your early-adopters and ambassadors for this business change. They can be your eyes-and-ears with their peers, helping to identifying challenges and blockages, as well as pave the way for success and building support and buy-in deeper into the organization.
9. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Achieving buy-in and realizing change is not a one-and-done activity. Be prepared to repeat your message… painting the vision of the future state and its impact for your team and stakeholders several times, both before acceptance and during implementation. Buy-in doesn’t just happen at the beginning of a project, but needs to happen throughout the implementation, to keep motivation high and activities focused.
John Maxwell has said: “Leadership is the power of one harnessing the power of many.” When you are seeking buy-in for your biggest ideas, strategies and innovations, harnessing the power of many is exactly what you need to do. Gaining buy-in early and often will pave the way to the success of your strategy and vision.
Are you struggling to achieve buy-in for your biggest ideas? Schedule a call today to discuss your challenges and gain insights. Progressio Global helps chemical companies accelerate business results by closing the strategy-to-execution gap, applying insights and techniques from decades of Fortune 50 and global chemical experience.