The implications of ‘buy-in’

Whenever I hear someone ask me for my ‘buy-in’ on something, I know I am listening to an inexperienced leader speaking, regardless of his or her age. I believe the person making this request is missing the point of what it takes for people to commit to something that will have them move forward in an inspired and outrageously productive way.

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I speak to how the conversations you are having give you the life you will soon be living. To me, “buy-in” means, “I have to go along with this.” Even though there may be good intentions behind “buy-in,” I believe the request is a lukewarm attempt at gaining commitment. Can you imagine “going along” with a wedding proposal? (“Honey, this ring is burning a hole in my pocket. I hope you buy into this.”) Commitment is the only thing that has ever led to great, not mediocre, results. 

When people are enrolled, not just “going along,” they see your goal and their goal as one and the same. In fact, if great leaders move on, people will still embrace the vision in spite of their absence. On the other hand, “buy-in” doesn’t feel complete. You get the impression one can opt out at any time.

For those hatching the plan around the boardroom table, people don’t see things the way you do and don’t have access to your perception of the world, and you need your team to execute, so getting through to their way of thinking is critical. 

A commitment calls forth inspiration, new ideas and the ability to get beyond perceived obstacles. When you really want to move a mountain or change course, you could gain enrollment/commitment as follows: 

  • Whenever possible, get feedback those in the field so they know their voice is in there somewhere.
  • Take time to explain the “why” of the need to change and the proposal.
  • Address your considerations of alternate paths and explain how this one benefits your audience, specifically.
  • Everyone is listening for something, and it is often not what you think. Deliver a vision. Since everyone receives communication differently, make it so visual learners can see in it on video or in their imaginations, kinesthetic learners can feel it in their gut or can see it acted out and auditory individuals can listen for how it “sounds.”
  • Communication begins with the word “commune.” If all stakeholders are not coming together, you are “icating,” not commun-icating.
  • Check in on your “communing” more often than you think is necessary.
  • Be accountable — your word — on everything you do. Trust is the greatest enrollment tool of all.

Bye buy!