Graham White

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I have lost count of the number of leaders I have worked with who have held the keys to a Rolls Royce Strategy in their hands but never quite managed to get comfortable in the driving seat.  Most of my strategic leaders have never had a problem envisioning the model they wanted.

Graham White driving his carThey developed the full technical specification, added all of the additional accessories they felt it required and included an inspiring future for their organisation. They knew the changes they wanted to make and they had a very good implementation plan in their glove box to take them on the journey.

So why did speed bumps, barriers and detours slow them down?  Why was their journey halted by these insurmountable barriers?

What frustrates me most about these blockages is that the solution is very simple. With all the hard work done in preparing the strategy and implementation plan, failure happens in the least likely of places and for the least likely of reasons.  Mobilising any organisation to succeed needs only one further key component.

It is neither unique nor original. It is simply this, you must have the buy-in of your workforce, and the key approach that will guarantee this buy in is transparency. Howard Schultz put it like this “I think the currency of leadership is transparency.”  To obtain buy-in there is no secret detour or hidden route that is off the beaten track.

All that is needed to ensure success is truthfulness, openness, availability and integrity. If I am right then a successful result should be achieved almost every time. So why is that not the case? Why do things go wrong? Why do leaders fail to achieve buy-in? From my experience I have identified seven failings in leaders that have destroyed potential for buy-in.

Here are my Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership Buy-in. I believe if you can follow my advice and eliminate each of these from your leadership practice your likelihood of success may just take a leap forward.

1. Dump Your Good Intentions
Your staff, aren’t going to remember your good intentions and neither will your colleagues or stakeholder. The people who count on you only ever see your actions, therefore buy-in is never built on good intentions, its built on action. So get over your good intentions, get off your seat and get on with the job of gaining buy-in.

2. Banish All Words That Start With “Some”
If you want to guarantee you never gain buy-in make sure you get into the habit of always using words that start with “some”. Somebody – Someday – Sometime – Something, these words translate into a message for all to hear that says:

“Somebody should do something about that sometime.” which is then translated into “No one nowhere will ever do anything about it” Leadership is not just about talking. In fact, talking about doing something again and again is not only failed leadership but is actually delusional leadership.

3. Cast Out Unnecessary General Meetings (Catch-ups)
The value of general meetings to gain buy-in once you get beyond the strategic planning stage is very limited.  In many cases general meetings are the enemy of buy-in, once direction is set, teams identified and resources allocated all future meetings should be for specific purposes such as agreeing alternative solutions, checking in to ensure all timescales are on target and occasionally to sync up each of the different streams, however never just catch ups.

I have watched far too many potentially great leaders dilute their buy-in and waste time and energy through unnecessary and ineffective mutual empathy huddles telling each other how good they are.

4. Evict Fear
Fear is the thief of buy-in, It kills your leadership and scares away your supporters. Many great men and women I have had the privilege to serve have spent their careers living in fear. Fear of slipping up, fear of failure, fear of job insecurity, and therefore they never have gained the level of buy-in necessary to give them the confidence to deliver.

The difference between effective leaders and ineffective leaders is simple. All leaders feel fear, however the effective ones push past it. If you’re going to be afraid of anything, be afraid of never accomplishing your mission.

5. Bin the Desire to Be Liked
Real, genuine and focused leaders are required to take people to destinations they would never get to otherwise.  Leadership is one of the hardest jobs in the world because it requires you to obtain the buy-in necessary to take people where they don’t naturally want to go.

Therefore you have a choice to make, you can focus on leading people, or focus on being liked. Bending over backward to make everyone happy will ensure buy-in is never achieved.

6. Sack Selfishness
Ambition is a critical driver for personal goal setting and achieving success. It’s also very important to have personal goals and dreams for your career and strategic aspirations but selfish ambition is a different creature entirely.  Selfish ambition kills buy-in, turns others off and turns you ultimately into a frustrated and arrogant failure.

7. Stop Blaming Others
It’s so easy to blame everyone and everything else for your lack of buy-in by your team. If you want to ensure you never succeed and never obtain buy-in then keep blaming others. The opposite of blame is responsibility, if you think about the leaders you admire most, they’re probably the most responsible leaders you have ever met. Great leaders never assign blame, Instead, they assume responsibility.

You can’t gain buy-in from people if you are not yourself bought in. I urge you to give my suggestions a try and see what happens next…