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How to deal with Getting buy-in

Working in a team is not quite as simple as it might seem at first glance. Assuming the worst-case scenario, a typical day may consist of talking to a disgruntled customer, putting out fires and fighting against deadlines and "burned budget", and on top of that, your co-workers are very biased, or even negative, towards new ideas or improvements proposed by you in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

How to deal with a situation in which team members will be much more involved and much more willing to accept new ideas for the development of a product or service? In short, how do you get others to "buy" your ideas? You will agree that being ignored and feeling rejected after coming up with an idea that in your mind seemed groundbreaking is not one of the pleasant aspects of doing your job.

Fortunately, you are not the only person who has experienced this as it is a problem that occurs in many organisations that you can try to solve. One way to deal with such challenges is as follows: Presenting to the team how an idea can help achieve the goal you have set can help engage them.

However, this is difficult to do in practice and among the three main reasons we observe why leaders fail to gain acceptance we can mention:

  • Assuming that everyone thinks the same as you (they are as experienced as you, those experiences are similar, and they have an equal level of knowledge as you, etc.). We assume that the "right answer" must be obvious to everyone. To our surprise - this is almost never the case.

  • Haste. We believe that there is not enough time for everyone to fully engage in the process, so you try to do most of the work and present the team with everything ready on a platter waiting for their approval (preferably in the blink of an eye).

  • Disengagement anxiety. We fear that someone in the audience will not be sympathetic to the idea, so we try to push our plan through. This action can be subconscious.

Observations identified three tactics that I believe have the greatest impact on gaining acceptance:

  1. Co-creation.

  2. Presentation.

  3. Storytelling.

1. Co-creation.

If you co-create your idea from the beginning with your team, they will be much more receptive to your suggestions. Co-creation means working with others to determine the best solution or plan of action.

Co-creation is important for two reasons:

First, you will create a better concept. Probably your group are intelligent people with different perspectives. Take advantage of this and then focus on its execution and implementation.

Secondly, by co-creating an idea, people feel like they have authored it so they care all the more about its refinement and ultimate success.

Co-creation can apply to almost any situation: agreeing on quarterly OKRs with your team, defining shared values in your organisation's culture, developing an Ideal Customer Profile, getting support for your proposal, or keeping a meeting on track.

Here are three strategies for effective co-creation:

Start early. It is very common to start working on a project and do everything yourself before talking to others. This can be a disastrous approach. Again, your goal is not to come up with a great idea, but to implement it. So when you have a proposal for solving a problem prepared at a very early stage, get a group together who are affected by the problem. Conduct a brainstorming session to jointly reformulate the draft proposal and agree on what will be your success. This will make the stakeholders feel valued. You will stop hearing: "I wish you had included us earlier".

Present the results of your work in progress. Remember the maths class where the teacher required you to show the process of solving the problem instead of writing down the result? Go one step further with 'showing your work'. As you come up with ideas and think about the problem, get in the habit of sharing updates as you go along. You can do this by uploading a summary of the results of user conversations to Slack, or by sharing findings and challenges in casual conversations between meetings or formal weekly events.

Be curious. It's easy to mentally dismiss a stakeholder who expresses reservations about your idea. You may think, "They just don't get it." Such thinking leads nowhere. Invest time to understand people's concerns and motivations. Ask open-ended questions to gain insight and create a compelling message. Ask questions such as:

  • "Did I miss something?"

  • "How can we improve this?"

  • "Can you give us an overview of your thinking?".

2. Presence.

Presence is an intangible quality. We know it when we experience it. It is our ability to focus attention and build confidence. The Harvard Business Review describes it as "the ability to display mature self-confidence; a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations, make tough decisions in a timely manner, and challenge other talented and strong-willed team members."

Presentation is very important because it shapes how our colleagues perceive us. It affects our ability to influence.

Presentation is a combination of verbal messages, body language and mindset. One action you can take to improve your presentation is to stop saying 'sorry' when it is not warranted. Our words affect how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. Instead of apologising, say the following phrases:

Instead of: "I'm sorry to bother you".

Say: "Do you have a second?"

Instead of: "Sorry, I made a mistake"

Say: "I'll fix it right away".

Instead of: "I'm sorry, I didn't realise"

Say: "Thanks for pointing that out"

Instead of: "Sorry, I didn't understand"

Say: "Can you help me understand?"

Also, add strength to your statements by getting rid of qualifiers such as "actually", "quickly" or "only". For example: "I actually have an idea", "I just think..." or "I have a quick question".

"Just" demeans what you have to say. It diminishes your power and impact.

"Actually" conveys a sense of surprise that you have something to contribute.

"Quickly" implies that you are imposing on others by default.

Don't disqualify your position. Trust yourself - share your ideas and ask questions.

3. Storytelling.

One of the main reasons we fail to convince others of our ideas is because we assume that everyone else thinks the same way as we do. Storytelling helps to break down this blockage.

Good storytelling means that you present a narrative that appeals to your audience.

Focus on why stakeholders should care about an idea. For example, prioritising a recommendation feature will improve conversions or changing the sprint process will free up time to reduce technical debt.

When you present your message, cut off stories so conference platforms can't switch off. Ask yourself: what context does the stakeholder need to know to make a decision? Eliminate everything else (or put in an appendix). You can always share more information if needed.

To drive engagement with others, always focus on co-creation, presence and storytelling. This is an ongoing process that requires improvement. The more you practice, the more you will apply it naturally. Influencing is a good way to better achieve your goals, increase your impact on the company and be able to advance faster in your career. Good luck and have a successful influence!




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