Three Ways to Get and Keep Your Colleagues’ Buy-In

Posted 02.07.2023

One of the great truths of life is that things never stay the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good thing or a bad thing; it’s going to change. It’s just as true in your professional life as it is in your personal life.

For instance, you can work really hard to build a great team and then things change. Someone leaves or someone joins and the dynamics change as a result. If you’re the team leader, you have to be consistent in attending to the dynamics to keep the team performing at a high level. Because the team is always changing in one fashion or another, that work never ends.

Likewise, when it comes to broader initiatives that you’re driving or leading in your organization, you can never take your eye off the ball. Just because you’ve received approval to proceed, it doesn’t mean that you’re good to go forever. Because things will continue to change, the need for ongoing buy-in from your colleagues never ends.

All of the work you did to get the initiative approved in the first place needs to continue as things move from approval to implementation. As the situation changes, people’s perceptions can change and the stories they’re telling themselves and each other about the initiatives can lead to problems unless you’re actively managing those perceptions and stories. You have to stay engaged in managing the narrative of change.

So, if the need for buy-in never ends, how do you keep your colleagues bought in? Here are three steps that work for my executive coaching clients:

Communicate frequently. Keep talking about the vision, the plan, the progress, and what you need to change. Keep talking about it until you hear it repeated it back to you. You want people on the journey with you.

Check in regularly with your peers and seek their ongoing feedback and calibration. Be open to their ideas and suggestions. Incorporate the ones you can and explain why on the ones you can’t. Look for other options when you disagree on the first iteration.

Involve your peers in your wins. Create test cases and early wins that they can contribute to and benefit from. Make them the heroes of your story. When you do, they’ll tell your story for you and maybe even more effectively than you because they’ve become the beneficiaries and true believers.

Getting approval for your initiative is just the beginning. It’s not a check the box and go do it exercise. The need for buy-in never ends.

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