Getting buy-in Featured

1:10pm EDT February 26, 2002
Businesses need a competitive edge more now than ever. The rough economy has everyone, from CEOs on down, out selling.

Because a CEO's purpose is to work on the business, not in the business, he or she has to focus on markets, direction and competition. Leaders consult with management teams to help with market feedback and choose the right path, but then what?

Change, change, change is the new business mantra. Workers are used to frequent changes, but at a high price -- waning confidence, mistrust of frequent changes, confusion about company direction. People care about their employer because they want to feel like a part of its success.

When changes must be made, get buy-in with all levels of employees. In fact, before leaders think they need to invigorate the business, they should ask the work force a few simple questions. Ask for their thoughts on why business has slowed, what they would do if they were in charge and how that would help increase revenue or market position.

Take their suggestions to heart. Don't allow the suggestion box to be a proxy for the wastebasket.

Some businesses have become more inclusive, but the majority don't realize the value that asking has in workers' minds. Getting buy-in at the top is easier; that's where decisions are made. Getting buy-in lower in the hierarchy is usually overlooked.

Most employees will do what's right but feel less worthy when left out of changes to their job and its process. They recognize change for the sake of change, empty promises and lip service, none of which produce the desired outcome. Workers often perceive their job as "their" job, not just the work they do, and feel pride in their work -- until they're left out.

Productivity, then morale, erodes, crossing departments and into customer interactions. Your company wastes time and money, and relationships deteriorate. Not getting buy-in can become insidious, even when it's not readily visible.

Rebuilding eroded trust is next to impossible. If you don't believe it, just ask former employees. Bernadette Mihalic, M.Ed, is an executive coach specializing in emotional intelligence, communications and effective leading. She can be reached at (412) 828-9501.