I’ve worked with dozens of entrepreneurs who started their EOS journey wanting, among other things, more “buy-in” from their employees. While I understand how rare and precious it is to have team members who share and want to achieve your company’s vision, the term “buy-in” itself has always troubled me.
After all, if you have to “buy” someone’s allegiance, does she really share your vision? Can you really count on her to help you achieve that vision? How about when the going gets tough? And, how much are you having to pay, anyway?
I’ve come to believe that “buy-in” is a myth. When it comes to getting your vision shared by all, you’re really asking each employee to make a choice to be a part of what you’re building. You can’t convince, cajole, or coerce your employees into that choice.
What’s Better Than Getting Buy-in?
Stop trying to sell people on your vision, or pay them to go along. You don’t need to beat your head against the wall until every last one of your people reluctantly jumps on the bandwagon. Instead, just do three simple things:
- Clarify and simplify your vision and plan
- Repeat yourself often
- Let people leave
Leadership teams working through the EOS Process complete the first step by answering the 8 questions on the Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO).
Step two requires every member of the leadership team to regularly share that two-page strategic plan with every employee, over and over and over again. For example, they share the answer to each question on the V/TO as part of quarterly “State of the Company” messages to the whole company.
Leaders also use parts of the V/TO in day-to-day communications with one or more employees. They hire, fire, review, reward, and recognize people using the company’s Core Values. They’ll share the Core Focus and Marketing Strategy to properly direct the energy of the organization on the right kind of work, the right kind of customers, and the right message that compels those customers to buy from them. They use the 10-Year Target and 3-Year Picture to help employees understand the company’s “big goal” and more specific longer-term priorities.
It’s absolutely impossible to repeat yourself too often. People need to hear something seven times to really hear it, and to begin understanding it. So quit worrying about boring your folks, or insulting their intelligence, or simply getting tired of hearing yourself talk. Just share your vision and plan—over and over again.
Eventually, every one of your employees will hear it, and they’ll be forced to make a choice. I’ve always imagined the voice inside their heads saying something like this:
“Holy cow, he will not stop talking about our vision! I’d better…” And then, perhaps after a bit of inner debate, the voice in their head finishes the sentence in one of two ways:
“…start paying attention, and get on board.”
“…leave, and go somewhere with no vision, or a different vision.”
As scary as that may seem, I truly believe you’re better off no matter which choice they make. Life is too short to spend it in a raft with a bunch of people who’d rather be swimming for shore.
You Can Have a Company with a Shared Vision
And, I also believe there are lots of people in the world who want to be part of something special, and compelling and important. There are plenty of people who admire passion, and vision, and an unwavering desire and commitment to achieving that vision.
People like you.
So, quit paying too much for “buy-in,” whatever that means. Stop working your tail off just to keep a bunch of naysayers in your life raft. Instead, spend your time clarifying, simplifying, and repeating your vision and plan. Repeat it a lot, maybe until you’re blue in the face. Some people will leave. But your best people will stay, and grab an oar, and paddle hard. And they’ll attract other people just like them to join the crew, and they’ll paddle hard, too.
You’ll all be on a journey together, by choice. Doesn’t that sound better for everyone?
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