I love the story by Mark Twain about Tom Sawyer convincing other people to whitewash a fence for him and pay him for the privilege. How in the world was he able to get them to do that? No matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t get my friends to cut my lawn for me. Show me the dad that knows people well enough to have this kind of leverage with his family and I’ll show you a man who has enormous power both at home and at work.
Experience for me is more like this: My wife and I were talking one night, just doing the daily download we try to make a habit, and she began telling me about her frustrations with motherhood. She wanted to get things done but the kids just seemed bent on preventing her from accomplishing anything. As she shared this with me my mind immediately went into command and control mode. There was a problem and I could solve it! The next day I spent a few minutes creating a structure for her day and strategies during each period for how she would keep the kids from preventing her progress. There were room times, book reading times, group cleaning sessions and carefully coordinated opportunities for play. It was perfect!
That night I told her that I’d worked on her issue and had a solution. We walked through my plan and I explained all the many sides of the approach. I told her how to train the kids to dutifully comply with the new schedule. I was eloquent, smart and passionate. Then I saw her expression…
So how can we go from a great idea we have to getting our families and teams to own them? Leaders who get steam behind their ideas have learned to S.T.O.P. Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive deeper into each of these and see if we can’t flesh some of this out.
- See with their eyes. The key to all buy-in is in learning to ask good questions. In the beginning you’ve got to ask questions that get you involved in their worlds. Dad, this means making sure you instill habitual conversation points with your kids and your wife. Leaders, this means having intentional lines of communication with those on your teams. When you come alongside your families and team members you see what they value and can better implement change that matters.
- Talk with their words. Any communicator knows that words have power. But do you know which words have power to the person you’re talking to at any given moment? Dad, you’ve experienced that moment when you explain something to your kids with words that are over their head. Eyes glaze over, mouths slightly open…and the moment’s gone. Inside the walls of your home or the office, you have to know how people speak to each other in order to maximize your connection. And that means spending time with them.
- Ownership – give it away. Dad, when your kids are feverishly attempting to get something done – who came up with the idea 99% of the time? Yup…they did. Obviously, the reason people go above and beyond the requirements of their job to accomplish a goal or complete a project is because they find value in it. Look closely enough and you’ll more than likely find that they either initiated the project or help shape the goal. So when you identify the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be realized, ask for help in designing the solution. Offer up something for their minds to latch onto. Break their existing perspective on something indirectly so they can begin processing this new idea. Then engage them in a quest to mutually discover what the “new normal” should be based on the expanded view of the world.
- Push the credit to others and own the blame. Most leaders don’t get massive buy-in the first time they try. Like any relationship this depends on trust. But if you learn to freely give away credit and take responsibility when things don’t go right, each time you go after buy-in you’ll get a cumulative effect from previous experiences.
So if you’ve either failed to gain momentum in a previous effort or are about to start something that needs other people to succeed, make sure you S.T.O.P. to speed up. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some ways you’ve learned to build excitement and action around your ideas?