Mastering the Art of Team Buy-In

Philip Manzano • Sep 02, 2016

Give proposed organizational changes their best chance of survival with these strategies that help encourage and foster team buy-in. The post Mastering the Art of Team Buy-In appeared first on Keela.

You have a vision. 

You know what direction your organization needs to go in and are excited to start rolling out the changes. 

Maybe you’re implementing a new social media strategy, purchasing a new softwareor streamlining a new policy.

You tell your team about your idea and everyone thinks it’s great. They cooperate in the implementation of your new change, and are grateful for the efforts you’ve made to bring them this great opportunity. 

If you have ever encountered a situation like this, you can probably stop reading here. This blog article is for those of us who may have had a great idea squashed. A new strategy idea dismissed. 

Maybe our ideas weren’t always the best. Maybe they weren’t well timed. But, if you have yourself a great opportunity and want to give it the best shot possible when put up against the scrutiny of your organization, you may want to take in some of the tips and tricks we’ve compiled below.

Whatever change you’re proposing is going to affect the daily lives of your team members. Some will interpret it positively, some negatively, and some may just not care. But we want you to have all the tools you can to improve team buy-in. A few managerial techniques can set you off on the right foot.

We are going to look at three parts of bringing a new change to your organization:


Cultivating an environment that welcomes change


Communicating change


Implementing change

But before we get into the tips, I want you to think about people in your organization that may fit these three different personas below. As you read the tips, think about how you can customize each interaction based on their reaction to change.

We’re going to call our personas Enthusiastic Earl, Negative Nancy and Lazy Laura. 

Enthusiastic Earl is immediately excited for the change. Almost suspiciously so. You just hope that his enthusiasm keeps up as you implement the change.

Negative Nancy immediately objects to the change. She thinks you should deal with other problems in the organization before bringing in something new. She identifies every flaw in your plan and tries to convince other team members why this is the worst idea ever.

Lazy Laura doesn’t care. She doesn’t object to the change. Actually she seemed quite positive about it. However, Lazy Larry isn’t about to put in the extra work it takes to fully adopt this new change.

Now with our team of enthusiasts, pessimists, and apathetics, let’s get to the good stuff.

1. Cultivating an Environment that Welcomes Change

What we need to remember is that these individuals are part of a team. While the strategies you use to cope with their reactions to change will have to be individualized, you can take a few steps to create a culture within your organization that is welcoming to change at the organization level.

Creating Team Culture

If the people in your organization see themselves as independent individuals, and not as part of a team, you are going to have a problem. As Jason Shenreflects in his three part series on team buy-in , getting buy-in from a group of gymnasts can be painstaking. They have trained for up to a decade independently. They learned to do what was best for their careers and their bodies. Jason’s task of convincing a group of gymnasts to pay club dues was, as expected, painstaking. The idea was immediately dismissed, but Jason persevered. Had Jason’s task been to get a basketball team to pay dues, a group that constantly works together, he may have had an easier time.

Keeping with the sports analogy, we can also learn about cultivating culture from Jon Gordon who speaks about buy in from the perspective of an NFL coach. In 2008 coach Mike Smith joined the Atlanta Falcons after it had been left in shambles. To rebuild the team be clearly laid out the values, beliefs and expectations that would define the team moving forward. Players that could not align with these values were encouraged to move elsewhere. 

While it’s difficult, you can’t cultivate a positive team culture with a group of individuals working independently without similar values. Yes, it is of the utmost importance to build a team of unique individuals with different perspectives – that encourages growth, development and learning. However, employees without team values could never fully work together to implement change, as they have very different visions of what your organization is and should become. 

Make sure everyone is on the same page before you implement change.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

So you’ve got a nice team culture, but people are still a little skeptical of change. It is your job as the manager to create an environment within your organization that embraces change. If this culture has not been established you are going to face issues. Show your team that you believe in their abilities to do tasks beyond their regular day to day. That you believe in their ability to innovate and bring something new to the table. That failing is okay, as long as you tried something new.

Here at Keela our managers always encourage taking time out of our daily tasks to think, innovate, and research to make Keela the most unique management product on the market. We are constantly encouraged to adapt, change and be aware of the environment we are working in. That means, when a new strategy or software comes into play, we are usually keen to give it a shot. Not afraid of failure, but excited to try out new tools for success. A culture like that breeds buy-in.

2. Communicating Change

So now you have the right culture to communicate change to your team and it’s time to tell them about your new plan. You’ve done a lot of the grunt work, but you’re not even close to done. Now it’s time to learn the art of communicating change. 

Bruna Martinuzzi does that quite effectively in her article 9 Ways To Get Others To Buy In On Change in the Open Forum. In summary, there are three key things we can learn about communicating change:

Understand the Link Between Change and Emotions

You are never going to convince your team about change with a report of compelling facts. This change affects their daily lives and that’s an emotional experience. There may be excitement, resentment, fear — any range of emotions may come from an organization change. 

A great way to learn more about the connection between emotions and change is better understand the Change Curve. This curve models personal transition with organizational change. It is drawn from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s article On Death and Dying, with the curve representing the grieving process, yet naturally translates to any change shocks a person may encounter. It brings you through the four stages individuals go through when facing change, and how you can use this model to increase the rate of acceptance.

Be Mindful of Quantity

This is the quantity of information you give, the number of times you share that information and the number of forums you share the information on. 

First of all, bombarding people with a giant list of facts overwhelming. Choose quality of information over quantity. Choose the facts that will really resonate with your team.

Secondly, studies show that the number of times a manager thinks is necessary to relay information is significantly lower than team members expect in order to really ingrain the idea of change. Repeating yourself is key. Make sure people know how important this is and understand your expectations.

Thirdly, convey your information in different ways. You’re repeating yourself to really instill the message – but you don’t want your team to be bored with your message. Show them in as many ways as you can the importance of the change. Draw on visuals, presentations, personal conversations, metaphors or stories – whatever works best for your team members.

Be the Change

If you are not convinced about the proposed change then nobody will join your bandwagon. Understand the new strategy or software completely. Know all the pros and cons. Be able to answer all the questions that will come up. Have your elevator pitch all lined up. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the change but be confident in your decision. Walk the talk and lead the way. 

3. Implementing Change

Let’s go back to our gymnast example. We’ve got a group of individuals that don’t necessarily want to work as a team to pay their dues. What did Jason do to effectively implement the change?

He brought in facts. He made a spreadsheet of exactly how much money people would need to pay and what it would get them. There was nothing hidden in the process. 

Get the Leaders on Your Side

Jason found his cheerleaders and began forming a critical mass of individuals behind the idea of paying regular dues. It is especially important to get your fellow leaders behind your idea. If other managers don’t believe in what you’re pushing the possibility of success decreases significantly. These people are leaders in your organization for a reason. They have the capabilities to get their teams behind the change, to motivate them and guide them in the process. 

You need them.

Address Naysayers

Jason addressed the naysayers, sending individual emails and then addressing them privately, proposing a compromise and earning their trust to implement the change. Don’t let negative energy sabotage your team for a potentially great opportunity. Work with those people to get them on board.

In addition to what Jason learned through his experience, we’ve also learned a few things about implementing change ourselves:

Make a Realistic Schedule

Sometimes things move quickly. Sometimes too quickly. People don’t have time to fully comprehend the change they are implementing. They don’t have time to get on board and make it feel like a realistic change.

You have to give the time to make this feel like a realistic change.

Set a schedule. Give deadlines for on-boarding and implementation. Let your team look forward to the change. This is more and more important depending on how big the change is. For example, if you are bringing in a new management software you may want to give a much longer heads up then if you are implementing mandatory team meetings. 

If you are taking on a new management softwarelike Keela, you can often access recommended implementation schedules from the organizations selling it.

Be Open to Change

Sometimes plans don’t work out exactly as we wished. That’s okay! You didn’t know what was going to happen until you tried. Catherine Powell writes in her article How to Get Your Team’s Buy-In to New Processes that it’s important to keep communication lines open with your team. This communication should not simply be explaining why your idea is best, but also listening to the experiences of your team members as they begin implementing change. You can create forums for feedback that allow team members to bring their experiences both publicly and anonymously. Know when something isn’t working and address it.

Draw on Passions

You’re a nonprofit. You’ve hired a team that is passionate about their work and motivated by the opportunities to make a real impact on your community. Relate proposed changes to the potential impact that it can create for your target communities. Evaluate change in the same way. Show how these changes have helped your team do their jobs more effectively. 

It’s a lot, but drawing on some of these tips can really help keep your team primed and ready for the next big change in your organization. Keep the good ideas coming and best of luck to you as you implement the next change.

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