How to Make Leadership Easier–Avoid Trying to Get Buy-In

(Part 2 of 7)

When facilitating a team’s discussion of whether to purchase software, a team member bombarded the leader’s suggestion with continuous questions. Each answer by the leader prompted added questions.  Eventually, the leader postponed the decision.

Afterwards, I asked the leader, “Why did you devote so much time answering the member’s questions.” 

“I was trying to get his buy-in,” the leader said.

Spending a lot of time seeking buy-in, I believe, is a mistake.  . 

A buy-in approach often gives too much attention to what authors Ella Ingram and Kerice Doten-Snitker call CAVE people—Colleagues Against Virtually Everything.  Decisions become win-lose contests.  The leader eventually prevails and the member loses, or the leader makes an unnecessary compromise and the member wins.  

Successful change agents operate from a shared vision of what decisions attempt to create and propose potential options, seek suggestions, and move toward a decision. 

When a CAVE person objects, the leader my validate the member with, “To be sure I understand, you are saying . . .?”  The objector will agree or attempt further clarification.

The leader can then move on with something like, “I understand you support another option.  I accept some disagreement as normal.”  

While it is important for all to have a say, not everyone will get their way.

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