Convincing employees to buy in to something they don’t agree with can be a challenge, says Nancy P. Crews.
“They understand they need to go out and still represent your point of view, but I think that’s the most difficult because their heart may not be in it,” says the founder, owner, president and CEO of Custom Manufacturing & Engineering Inc., a provider of engineering, manufacturing and software products and services.
Crews, who led the company to 2007 revenue of about $14 million, says that if someone’s heart isn’t in it, it’s important to maintain a one-on-one dialogue with that person.
Smart Business spoke with Crews about how to get buy-in from your employees.
Q. How do you get employee buy-in for the direction you want to take the company?
One of the first things is your management team. If they don’t buy in to the vision and direction, then the people who report to them will not buy in to the vision and direction.
The second step is going out and meeting and sharing that vision with the employees. Even during meetings with them or [when] we have an all-hands meeting where we meet with all the employees and say, ‘This is the direction. We are heading in that direction.’ Some of the lower-level leaders, I meet with in meetings where they are reporting on programs or their progress and what’s going on in their department. That gives you an opportunity to have dialogue with them.
Q. How do you get buy-in from your management team?
You have to listen as to why they think you shouldn’t change direction. Then, open up dialogue amongst all of the managers. I like to hear from everyone.
As I tell them, one of the reasons I hire them is to make sure they give me their opinions, not just give me what they think I want to hear.
That helps just getting the dialogue going. At the end, it’s your company, and you get to make that decision.
Q. How do you create an environment to foster open dialogue?
It depends upon the individual. Some individuals are already there. The others take some time. You may have to meet with them one on one to give them some assurances that you value their opinion, and you have to reinforce in the meeting, ‘Well, that’s a good idea. I appreciate that insight.’ So, they feel comfortable enough.
You have to set the expectation. I set the expectation in my meetings that I don’t hire you just to tell me what I want to hear. I hire you for your expertise, and I need to hear it. If somebody is being quiet, then I will call them out and say, ‘What is your idea on this? What are you thinking?’
No one person has all the good ideas. So, you have to open it up so you get the best of all ideas. Your decision is going to be no better than all of the input that you have, whether that is from your own research or from other people’s research or other people’s opinions. So, the other opinions that you have, the more input you have, the [greater the] likelihood it will be a better decision.
One of the things I do is I ask people, ‘Well, what’s good about this idea? What causes you concern about this idea?’ which, hopefully, are enough open-ended questions to get them to have a dialogue with you on their thoughts.
Then, for those people who may be reluctant to be in disagreement, let’s say you have five managers, and four of them are in agreement and the fifth one isn’t. That person may feel like being quiet.
Then, you need to bring them on the side and talk with them and say, ‘I noticed you are quiet. What are your concerns? Just do it one on one.
Q. How do you ensure that managers are buying in to the direction of the company and effectively spreading that message to employees?
I usually do it through a series of meetings. I will meet with the people that report directly to me. Many times, I’ll meet with the supervisors. I have a supervisors’ luncheon when I meet with them and talk with them, independent of the manager.
If I have a difficulty, like it becomes clear one manager isn’t talking to their people because their people are not in the know, then I go first to the manager and say, ‘I don’t understand. Your people don’t seem to be understanding where we are heading and why, and it doesn’t seem like they know. Have you shared that with them?’
Then sometimes, you just have to replace that manager if they are not going to take it down into the organization.
HOW TO REACH: Custom Manufacturing & Engineering Inc., (727) 547-9799 or www.custom-mfg-eng.com