Leaders are continually challenged to assess their organizations for any changes needed to improve function and long-term outlook. They take a deep look at many aspects of the operation, studying information from various viewpoints and departments. Leaders are also tasked with ensuring that all policies, procedures and processes are in alignment with the mission and vision statements.
Mission statements declare an organization’s purpose; what they do and why. Vision statements are (as the name suggests) a vision of where the organization will go; what the results of all efforts will be.
Both statements are intended to unify and focus people with a common purpose and goal. Leaders should understand that ultimate success is possible only when everyone is on the same page at the outset, supporting each other, believing in the mission and the vision. The days are gone where mandated edicts are willingly adopted.
Many leaders struggle to overcome the initial requirement of unity and engagement. Without buy-in from their people, all the magnificent wording of statements, all the splendid planning and budgeting is for naught. The ideas fail before they can be implemented.
What Prevents Plan Adoption
Companies are handicapped when employees are not engaged in the basic mission. Gallup reports that almost three out of five employees don’t know what principles or purpose their company upholds. This lack of assurance leads to another Gallup survey finding that four out of five employees strongly disbelieve their leaders have set a clear direction for their organization’s future.
Why is there such a disconnect between leaders and their people when it comes to their company’s direction? Two possible causes emerge:
- Leaders may not be communicating what their people need to know, or may not be communicating it effectively.
- The employees may be disinterested or unwilling to understand what they’ve heard.
Most employees would say that they and their coworkers care about their future and the company they work for. They‘d state that they also make every effort to understand the information their leaders pass on to them about their company’s current state and where they may be heading. The have a vested interest.
The likely cause for the disconnect employees feel about their employer is that they are not sufficiently informed by their leaders. Herein lies the essential issue behind the need for leaders to get employee buy-in when future plans are announced. It comes down to sufficient communication. When all is considered, communication is the essential element in the management of an organization.
People want the assurance that their future is stable; that it’s in good hands, and their careers are safe. When plans or a vision are announced, employees want to feel that they’re a part of it all. They need to sense that the plans were fashioned for their benefit, not someone else’s. These are crucial needs leaders need to understand to get buy-in from their people.
How Communicating Plans Can Go Wrong
The most successful leaders know that communication is two-directional, not one. Developing future plans or visions are monumental tasks. They affect everyone but don’t necessarily involve everyone in each step of their development.
To get broad adoption from your people, they need to have a stake in the plans and see a benefit for them. Employees who see more pain than gain have no reason to approve of your plans. They must be informed to have a way to judge.
Effective communication in big and small settings is the only way to assure this. For every effective way to get buy-in from employees, there are ten ways to fail at it.
The procedural top-down approach to communication doesn’t work in today’s environment. When managers decide to pass along only the information they believe their people “need to know”, barriers are erected. Filtered information always creates contradictions and errors. The narrative is often spun to soften its effect, depending on the audience. These things erode trust.
Without trust, people tune out, grumble and become less engaged. At the far end of the spectrum, they stop caring. No leader can gain employee acceptance to any initiative under these circumstances. The same holds true for plans that are mandated from the top office down the line of command, as if they were strict orders to be followed. Employees feel trapped and controlled when they hear about directives they never saw coming, announced after the fact.
Gallup’s Vibhas Ratanjee also notes that if leaders present the need for change under a negative, fix-it mindset, employees become focused on what’s wrong with the company rather that what’s right. If the leadership approach is from a crisis-management perspective, employees formulate a negative impression of their workplace and leadership. This not only stifles buy-in, but may advance desertion.
Another way communication can go wrong is when leaders only inform select people, as if they were more privileged than others. This is done under the assumption that the word will get out well enough. Instead of an equal opportunity for involvement, the “privileged” continue the selection process as they see fit. The disconnection, distortion and discord resulting from this give rise to a resistance of the plans a leader wishes to implement.
Getting Buy-in With a Great Approach
The primary way great leaders have received acceptance for their plans or vision is to involve everyone in their organization from the beginning. People know they are valued and respected when their leader not only informs them throughout implementation, but includes them in its origination.
The beginning steps are key. As Ratanjee explains, visions that include people, with their ideas and feedback, also get their support. Buy-in is at its highest when collaboration is at its greatest. When people see that their needs are being addressed, they commit to seeing the plans put in place. They see a benefit not only for the company, but themselves. This is a double incentive.
Working though the development process—explaining it, talking it out, deciding on directions together—gives people a sense of empowerment and freedom. There are few things that engage people more than that. Encouraging, challenging and expressing gratitude for all contributions raises the buy-in to its peak. Everyone will want to see the vision succeed.
Leaders who support people to a higher level of excellence conduct the entire development process from a positive perspective, not looking at how to fix what’s broken, but building on what already works. People want to identify with success. Draw them into a vision that paints that picture.
People need regular communication and update sessions to remain engaged and supportive. Gathering people face-to-face is the most engaging way to involve them in the process. Encourage dialogue and provide opportunities to interact as their ideas, concerns and questions are considered. Great leaders appoint a team of people to facilitate meetings, minutes and follow-up.
Andre Lavoie, CEO and co-founder of Clear Company, stresses the importance of communicating with clarity and specificity. When employees grasp your compelling vision, and then hear a plan entailing concise, logical steps that will require their help, they’ll commit their best efforts. Design plans that create tasks your people can take on, which will enhance their personal goals and address their long-term needs.
If the entire management staff participates in communication and workshop activities, the sense of unity that results will pave the way for maximum employee buy-in and the most rewarding results.
Creator of the KASHBOX: Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, Habits
Helping You Realize Your Potential
I help people discover their potential, expand and develop the skills and attitudes necessary to achieve a higher degree of personal and professional success and create a plan that enables them to balance the profit motives of their business with the personal motives of their lives.