In Leaders, Vision

“It’s a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” – Helen Keller

One of the things I hear leaders complain about on a regular basis is how hard it is to build commitment to change across an entire organization. Everybody has kick-off events, or gives fantastic sounding motivational talks, or some other great idea, and yet that commitment doesn’t happen. And so the organization tries to make change with a bunch of people who really aren’t that engaged in it, and almost invariably it fails.

There are countless books & videos & all kinds of media out there about creating buy in, and many of them are very good. I was fortunate enough a few weeks ago to be involved in a meeting with a number of our clients at our quarterly business leader group meeting, and while I was there someone said something that too many of the ‘How to Get Buy In’ manifestos miss. The key phrase he used several times over was “What do the owners really want?”

I think that gets to the heart of why so often there isn’t much buy in when organizations make change. Too often we ask employees or other stakeholders to buy in without them really knowing what they’re buying in to. We tell them what they’re supposed to do, or what their role might be changing to, but we don’t always clearly create an image of and articulate a vision for where that change is taking us.

Change is work, and it’s usually hard work, but some things about it are not complicated. One of those things is the reality that people need to understand the leaders’ vision for the organization. They need to see that we want to make this change because we’re trying to accomplish this thing or because we want the organization to look like that. They need to understand why they personally are going to be better off because of the change. And they need to understand exactly what that change is trying to accomplish.

The next time you’re trying to make change in your organization, ask yourself why exactly you’re doing this. Do you know what you really want? If you can communicate that clearly to people, then everyone has a chance to understand what’s really important and what their role is in that and why it’s such a great thing. If you don’t know what you want, how can anybody else be excited about helping you get it? As usual, if something in your organization (buy in) isn’t the way you want it, the reason starts with you, the leader. Do your job and you’ll give everyone else the chance to do theirs.

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