In my business practice, I am often asked, “how do I get ‘buy-in’ when my goals are not the same as their goals?”The reality is, most of us simply try harder to convince others, or give up altogether, presuming the other party simply “doesn’t get it.”
I believe a different, almost counter-intuitive, approach is needed.
Instead of advocating for the validity of your perspective, you first need to acknowledge the validity of theirs. A good example is anything requiring organizational change. Whenever an individual, team, department or entire organization is asked to embrace a change, there are invariably two “camps” that quickly form – those who support the change (advocators) and everyone else (resisters). Change frequently fails because these two factions simply refuse to accept the viewpoints of the other. From my perspective, there is often validity in both viewpoints that must be worked with.
I teach a 4-step communications process that integrates differences and builds shared commitment to organizational change. The keys to this model include:
- You must present a “burning platform” as to why this change is necessary, not only to others but to the person you are trying to engage
- You must demonstrate that you not only understand the other party’s “resistant” points (concerns and needs), but that you are willing to work with them to minimize or lessen these issues
- You must avoid over-selling your perspective as this comes across as “cheerleading” and causes the other person to quickly dismiss you or your purpose.
- You must explain what is not impacted by your proposal; that is, those things the other party values that are going to remain intact.
- You must invite their input so that solutions become “our” solutions, not just yours.
All too often, the person trying to get agreement from key decision makers is passionate but unsure of how to get commitment to their purpose. When resistance is encountered, the proposer loses confidence which makes the next client meeting even more difficult.
Getting commitment is a process and very few decision makers are going to commit on first encounter. Changing our own mindset about what should be the goal for a client meeting is crucial. Rather than expecting immediate endorsement, instead we should seek to effect an attitude shift that moves the client, over time, from disinterest to interest, to understanding, and finally to shared commitment to move forward collaboratively.
Robert Harris is a president of Robert Harris Resources Inc., an organization which trains employees at all levels on interpersonal effectiveness.