Cultivating Impenetrable Buy-In

Buy-in as a construct

Buy-in as a construct is an elusive amoeba that is magnificently apparent both in its void and presence; unfortunately, the elusiveness is illuminated through the fleetness with which it can come and go.  Managers, coaches, captains, and several others in leadership positions have long been enamored by the struggles attached to the cultivation of this ideal amongst their team and more often the sustainable nature of it’s being once initially realized.  But why such contention about a seemingly homogenous construct? If we look at buy-in from 10,000 feet, isn’t this a desirable trait for all mankind? Do not all want to believe in something? Believe in a concept? A goal? An ideal by which we should live our life or drive our purpose?  Well, yes, it’s true we all do have that innate need to belong; to have purpose; to have a concept with which we can attach value, direction, and goals to in our life. But then why for leaders is it so difficult to cultivate impenetrable buy-in amongst their team? The answers lies in the leaders ability to be vulnerable, cultivate emotional investment, and resolve the three most basic human needs, autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

It starts and ends with trust

Potentially the most influential criteria of buy-in lies in the concept of trust among not just the leader and the team but between members of the team and each other.  This trust can not simply align with the traditional definition, of which is centered around being able to predict a persons behaviors based on past experiences; because this definition does little to describe how the trust is formed? Why is it formed? Or even how is it sustained?  Without these contextual understandings the potential for future growth among the team is blunted by veiled discussions and refrained conflict. The culture is missing the interjection of vulnerability among team members.

Vulnerability based trust is cultivated in an environment in which team members are encouraged to never fear judgement, attack, or deception from another member.  Instead their viewpoints are vehemently requested with the hopes that it will cause moments for positive conflict to occur that result in the adoption and transcendence of new ideas into the fabric of the unit.  Conflict is essential to the productivity of a successful team!!

Tell a story and interject them into the story

The ability to tell a story is potentially the most influential tool a leader can possesses!  In the end a story is all that we are; it’s what are lives are made up of; it how we remember people; its why we believe in things; and most importantly its how we become emotional invested.  Emotional investment is the goal of every commercial, motivational speech, and even religious sermons. Emotional investment is what causes us to get lost in a story; its what causes us to loss objectivity, the ability to critically think, or even often times loose touch with reality.  Its what helps us fall in love!

A leader must utilize the powers of story telling to create emotional investment in their vision, in the vision of the company or team.  They must harvest this emotional investment by not only telling a great story but by interject their team into their story. The emotional investment created by the leader is critical to the not only the productivity and culture of a team but also the resolve of that team.  An emotionally invested team will be able to remain naive to how challenging certain obstacles, how large the potential for failure is, and how often they may struggle. However, no story is powerful enough to overcome a leader who is not equally or superiorly emotionally invested to that of their team members.

Resolving the three basic human needs

The highest quality work is generally derived from those who are self-determined and possess high quantities of intrinsic motivation.  Thus, all leaders should desire to have a team that is comprised of individuals who are extremely self-determined. The self-determination theory (developed by Deci & Ryan, 2000) describes three basic human needs that when resolved can elicit high levels of self-determination among individuals.  The three basic human needs are relatedness, autonomy, and competence.

Be Relatable…humanize leadership

A leader who desires to have a lasting effect on an athlete or team member must be prudent to develop a relatable ground with that individual and or encourage a culture that enriches relatedness.  The relatedness of the leader is bolstered by their ability to humanize themselves. This humanizing act removes the hierarchy structure of the relationship and allows for vulnerability to further present itself.  Ultimately the more relatable a person feels towards a culture, team, story, or leader, the greater the opportunity for emotional investment.

Provide Competencies and challenge those competencies

A leader must constantly provide opportunities for growth and development at both the personal and tactical level.  It is important for leaders to appreciate the need people have to work on themselves and improve not only their skillset but improve upon their own personal growth.  Thus, training or personal development opportunities should not be special occurrences but should be engrained into the common practices of a company or team. Individuals’ need is to be possess the skill set and competence necessary to achieve success in the task they are being asked to do, yet they also yearn to be continually challenged to learn and advance upon the skill sets.

Provide Autonomy and Handle the consequences well!

A team without conflict cannot be successful because they will have only experienced veiled interactions due to the lacking expressions of vulnerability.  To be in conflict is to be vulnerable and to be vulnerable is to trust. The greatest way to generate conflict is to provide autonomy and decentralize some of the command within a company or team.  With team members having control over certain decisions there will undoubtedly conflict between the leader and their team members, yet, it is how the leader handles this conflict that will create the buy-in.  If the leader shuns their decisions or affirms their authority, the satiated feelings towards autonomy will soon disperse for the team. A leader must cautiously tread in times of conflict to avoid the pitfalls of micro-management and the dissolving of trust.

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