Getting Better Buy-In: 5 Steps for Facilitating Change

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Professional N*Powerment

It is human nature to stay the same for the most part. Why not? The “same” is comfortable. Same is what we already know so it takes no additional thought or planning. The same is good. We can use those saved brain cells that we don’t use for same for other things—planning fun things perhaps—so why do something different? Different takes time and often more energy. Different is bad. Therefore, we are typically only interested and then forced to change when it suits our needs on an individual level or when the benefits of changing outweigh the benefits of staying the same. Again, this is often determined on an individual basis. Hardly ever is anyone supportive of group change. This fact of life makes leading group change efforts downright difficult. As the head of my department, I have struggled with this over the years. However, through trial and error I have discovered that getting people to do “different” is all in the approach.

Most people in leadership positions approach change from an authoritarian angle. They say, “I’m in charge here so do this because I told you to do it and if you don’t, you’re insubordinate.” Think about it, it’s the same as a parent saying to a child, “Do this or you’re gonna get in trouble because I’m the mommy (or daddy)!” Parents know that this approach seldom works for children and let’s face it, since we are all grown children, it doesn’t work well on us either. I know as a strong-willed person myself, even if what I’m being told to do is a good thing, I wouldn’t do whatever it was just to be rebellious and if I were forced, I would, but my heart wouldn’t be in it so I wouldn’t do it well. My thinking was, if this form of leadership doesn’t work, there’s gotta be a better way and I sought to find it. The better way that I’ve found to establish the kind of buy-in necessary to result in effective change is what I call the 5P’s.*

Step 1: Unveil the Project: I say “unveil” and not simply “explain” the project because that’s the way you have to present it—like a new car, a wrapped gift, a wonderful treat that you can’t wait to share. You unveil your project by clearly and passionately articulating what it is you what them to do or change. Be sure your explanation is both clear and passionate. No one will be interested in hearing about it if you, the planner, are not clear on what you want and no one will be interested in doing it if you, the leader, aren’t passionate about it. Your listener will wonder, “why would I want to do this if you can’t get the details straight (sounds too difficult) and you don’t seem to care about it yourself (sounds boring)?”

Step 2: Describe the Payoff: You must be able to answer the question on your staff members’ minds, “what’s in it for me?” We all work with or for children, so we may mistakenly think, “Obviously I want you to do this because it’s good for our kids. You should see that and be willing to jump on it immediately.” I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, that little thing I mentioned earlier called “human nature” takes precedence. As good-natured and beneficent as most educators are, even we act from a place of how does this help me? You’ve got to be able to tell them. Although everything is ultimately for the benefit of our students, clearly delineate how the project will enhance their lives as well.

Step 3: Involve people in the Process: Have your group decide how they would like to implement the change. Allow them to create the plan of action for going forward with the project. Arrange several meetings where they can use the time to do this. Meet separately with the strongest opponents of the project to discuss their fears (oftentimes that all it is—they’re not adversarial, they’re just scared). Don’t expect everyone to do “different” the same. Be willing to discuss how the project might look or work for the different members of your staff.

Step 4: Protect your staff: When people try new things, there are several possibilities that can occur. They are going to be successful. They are going to mess up and be tempted to stop. They are going to fail miserably. They are going look and try other ways that it can be done differently or even better. You have to expect and embrace all of those possibilities and protect your staff in each one. By protect, I mean they should feel safe sharing their journey of change with you. They should know that they can experience any or all of those things and still come to you for support. Why? Because you….

Step 5: Take Pride in their efforts: Celebrate every step they take towards the change you want to see. Mention it at meetings, write them notes, tell a colleague. Tell the person themselves. Take care not to leave out the ones who may not be advancing at the pace of others. Acknowledge him or her too. Eventually, your project will be fully implemented and ready for review.

Yes, yes, I know it would be so much faster and easier to just tell them what to do, how to do it, write them up for not doing it and have your project crash and burn! But who has time for that?

  • I will post an example of how I’ve done this with a project in a later blog post

How Well Are You Handling Your Stress?

Did you know that people who are most passionate about their work are the ones who are most at risk for stress induced illnesses and fatigue? For most women, juggling a full-time position, raising children, dealing with friends and family members, maintaining our health and finances, championing our causes, rallying “the troops” and trying to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep a night is enough to push us to the edge. Oftentimes, we find ourselves skating on dangerously thin ice with exhaustion or burnout waiting just below the surface. It’s critical for an effective and self-aware leader to be able to gauge this danger zone and proceed with caution.

Are you surviving or thriving?

Take this quick quiz:

  • Is your work ethic is so strong it leaves you with little time or energy for activity in your personal life?
  • Do you tend to do most tasks on your own in order to “do it right?”
  • Has your weight and eating pattern changed dramatically recently (resulting in weight gain or loss)?
  • Have you noticed a definite change in your sleep pattern (either much harder to fall asleep/insomnia, or needing more sleep/harder to get up in the mornings)?
  • Do you find that you do not have time to plan as much as you would like to?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may be experience some early signs of burnout. Luckily, there are steps you can take TODAY to counteract the effects, renew your energy and reignite your passion. Here are a few:

1) Do something that is just for you each day: As leaders, we have to remember to take time for ourselves. Even if it’s something as small as buying a caramel latte or taking a moment to sit on a bench and “people watch” in your neighborhood, just enjoy where you are for short while.

2) Unplug at least once a day: Step away from the computer, and take a stretch break. Take a walk, read a passage from an inspirational book, or listen to calming music.

3) Establish and maintain a regular sleeping pattern: As much as you possibly can, try to prepare for bed and wake up at the same time daily, even on weekends. If this suggestion is impossible for you, try to take 10-20 minute power naps when you can.

4) Connect with other people who share your passion: You know the excitement and motivation you feel when you attend a conference and you return home fired up and rearing to go because you’ve spent time with like-minded people? You can create that on a mini-level by connecting with one or two individuals who do this for you on a daily or weekly basis.

5) Do not skip meals: It’s easy to get so caught up in your work that you may forget to eat once in a while, but don’t let that become a routine. Plan your meals and stick to it. Remember, the issues you are dealing with it will still be there after you’ve had your breakfast (or lunch or dinner).

A few small changes can have a huge effect on your overall well-being.

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