Deb Clifford

Article Summary:

Don't seek "buy-in" from your employees, get them engaged in the process from the start.

Change Management: Get Input, Not Buy-in

Have you ever tried to make a change within your organization that flopped? You were excited about the potential for your organization, researched it, thought it out and discussed it with respected colleagues. Then, when you tried to get buy-in for your ideas, they fell upon deaf ears, conflict or indifference? One reason for this experience is the normal human resistance about leaving our comfort zone. Another significant reason change initiatives fail is due to lack of involvement from those who the change affects.

The words we use around change need to be changed! Take buy-in for instance. In order to get your buy-in, you need to be sold to. Is that how you want to experience change? Do you enjoy being sold to, a passive recipient of someone else’s ideas? Or would you rather put in your two cents before the change affects you? Truly, your ideas might actually improve the change. Even if it doesn’t, your active involvement in any part of the change that you can affect will increase the odds that you can embrace, or at the very least, support the change.

Try this word on for size – engagement. Rather than seeking buy-in from people, get them engaged with the change. Engagement requires meetings. Meetings require interaction. And, the quality of those interactions will determine the quality of the outcomes. The meeting participants should be encouraged to be engaged and evolve the idea. The extent to which people can integrate the concepts into their lives, work and vocabulary will determine the success of the change.

But, you say, I don’t have time for all these meetings! Consider this, what is the amount of time you will spend influencing nay-sayers after you give your slide presentation to sell the change? And, you say, I especially don’t want to ask for input after I’ve thought this change through so well – it will just take longer to add the others’ ideas! Perhaps, yet how much time do you estimate will be spent fixing a botched change initiative? How many people in the organization will give the change lip service and continue with the old ways because they were not involved? If the change is implemented with engagement up front, the meetings will save you time in the long run.

Consider how you conduct your meetings. The style and tone of the meeting sends a strong message about your organization’s culture and values. Who have you involved in the meetings? The list of attendees should be planned out just as carefully as your content. Are you presenting? Or are you facilitating? Are you coercing …selling? Or are you encouraging two-way dialogues? Are you engaging the participants in the change? A collaborative style will encourage a positive approach towards any change.

Change is difficult and time consuming. Part of the reason is human nature. We naturally resist change. And, we also need to rethink the way we attempt to achieve change. We need less imposition and more genuine participation and human interaction.

Deb Clifford is an internationally recognized business leader who for the past twenty-six years has worked with organizations of all sizes, building confident and capable leaders. In 1999, she founded Inspired People. Deb brings her powerful message and successful programs to Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, and associations. Creator of the PEPTM program used throughout New England, she brings her leadership and team development expertise and contagious enthusiasm to organizations. Her focus is to help participants harness the power of people effectiveness so the company can boost their profits through their people. For more information, visit

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