Monday, May 02, 2011

Gaining Buy-In

Whether leadership is conducting a symphony orchestra or leading a jazz quartet - and those are two famous descriptions of the job of a leader - the leader needs to guide while not creating dependency or squelching talent. This is especially difficult for the leader who has strong beliefs about the right approach. In a crisis where time is scarce, the leader may have to be autocratic and stow collegiality.

At other times, however, it is important for the leader to gain "buy-in" from the team. Skeptics may say that can be coerced. Their observation is true up to a point but it is at that point that plans can be weakened and even killed. There are many ways in which associates can delay, modify, and divert the course of a decision with which they disagree. Furthermore, decisions that are crammed down the throats of the team create resentment and rebellion.

Merely going through the motions of consultation is not enough. Such hollow efforts are easily spotted and only fuel dissent and distrust. That said, consultation does not mean abdication. The leader may get the input and still decide on the original proposed course of action. The key to gaining buy-in and support is trust. If the consultation was genuine and the leader is competent, the threshold of trust will have been met. A team that exemplifies professionalism will then embrace the proposal as theirs as well as the leader's.

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