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Friday, June 27, 2014

Why Getting "Buy In" Might be Overrated

Experts tell us that the way to effect change in an organization is to get "buy in" from people at all levels.  This concept is logical because it is based on the assumption that those who buy into the changes will accept them and thus, become a part of implementing the changes.

Personally, I think "buy in" is a bit overrated but not for the reasons one might think.

I will not discount the importance of every person in the organization being in alignment with the same vision and mission because that is ultimately what makes the ship change course. But that doesn't happen without an original idea--- and that typically is born in the mind of a lone person.

I believe that true innovators and change-makers don't think much about getting "buy in" when they are on the brink of something greater.  Steve Jobs' leadership style was very controversial but one thing that he believed resonates with me:

"A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." 

At first glance that might seem egotistical but the reality is that not everyone has the foresight to see possibility and opportunity.

Think about those who can walk into a house in need of rehab and see possibility -- those who can push past what is right in front of them and visualize what it will look like when a wall is knocked down or the structure is altered.  They have the ability to visualize the finished space when standing amongst chaos or hopelessness.

This is the same foresight a leader must have in order to take an organization to the next level.  They see what others don't and they don't necessarily feel the need to walk around and make sure everyone agrees with their vision before moving forward.

I've noticed that true innovators have the courage to stand in solitude for a while as they project their vision onto others.  If they are good, they paint the portrait so that others can see.  Even if the picture is blurry to others, true leaders don't necessarily wait to move forward until it comes into focus.

Instead, they begin planning, building and touting the mission as they continue to forge ahead in privacy.  It's part of the reason people describe the "top as being "lonely".  If the leader is able to persuade another person with their passion, something miraculous happens.  That person sees the value and joins the leader.

It seems to me that that first follower is just as critical as the leader because without them, a movement cannot occur. That first follower, like the leader, shares passion for the mission and soon, others begin to see it and follow as well.  This "tipping point" is the very thing that moves the entire path in an organization.  This is where the change happens.

There's nothing easy about starting a movement.  It's hard because people don't always see things in the abstract.  It's hard because failure is a real possibility.  Leaders who are innovators must have the courage to be ridiculed and criticized for their efforts but not allow the criticism to discourage them from movement.

Quite honestly, that's why leaders are rare.  Most people cannot handle the ridicule from those who stand on the sidelines.  It's not easy to be scrutinized by others who wouldn't mind seeing the leader fail.

Keep in mind that this sabotage might not be personal but instead their own resistance to change.  People have a natural tendency to remain unchallenged in their comfort zones and innovators threaten that comfort so the masses push back.

That's why "buy in" might not be as important as we once thought.  Instead I propose that it's more important to have a leader that has the courage to persuade others with passion and relentless pursuit of something greater. 

1 comment:

Larry Frieders said...

Foresight and vision are personal characteristics. Some people have them and most don't. Translating a vision into a reality takes power (not force) and skill. Power comes from a learned ability to convince other stake holders to agree and support. That skill can be learned and it seems to be often referred to as buy-in.

In the final analysis, vision is a trait that a person may or may not have by birth and achieving buy-in is a skill that can be learned.

Some people - Jobs, for example - are tyrants and exert their will on others by sheer force. A combination of excellent vision and tyrannical force is rare. The better version is vision plus empathy, skill, and interpersonal prowess.

There is an abundance of tyrants in politics and public office. Sadly, many public "servants" are tyrants in disguise.

A spirit of getting the job done together (buy in) remains a superior modus operandi and it may be perceptually overrated in the world today.