Getting buy-in from staff

In the last 3 years, we’ve grown from 4 people sitting around a kitchen table to almost 30 remote staff worldwide.

We’ve had a lot of growing pains.

Managing and growing a remote team is challenging, and when you are growing it at the speed we did, it becomes overwhelming. It’s hard to update processes when you have to somehow split your time between answering questions, training new staff and actually doing your job. When problems need to get solved, there is usually no other option than to jump on a call, outline the solution and ask someone to do it.

As we grew and developed management layers, I started to get pushback when I presented a new solution or suggested that things get done a certain way. There were times that I would present a change, only to get scowling faces looking back at me. I quickly realized that I wasn’t seeing the situation through the eyes of my staff. I was telling rather than asking for input. I was showing my version of the solution rather than explaining the problem.

As I reflected on this, I was reminded of how I used to present ideas in my first gym business. I thought about how I presented my ideas to staff. I trusted them and their opinions because they worked with our clients more than I did. They worked on the day-to-day business more than I did. They were the boots on the ground while I was focuses on growth. We had different perspectives on the same problems.

Instead of shoving a new process in their face, I always collaborated with them first. This reduced strain between us, increased buy-in from them and mitigated failure.

Here is my 4-step formula for getting buy-in from my team:

1. Filter

If you have management layers, the first person to go to is the person in charge of the department that the change may affect. They are usually your most trusted people in the organization, and they will be able to tell you who you should talk to on the teams to get the best collaboration from. They usually already understand the problem so they can help you vet it and find good way to present it to the team

The team lead may even shoot me down before I get to talk to the team. This is good. This means that you won’t piss off the entire company with a half-baked idea that will confuse them. These people are your filter.

2. Brainstorm with specialists

Next, you (or your team lead) will go to the specialist that your team lead suggests. For example, if the change you are proposing will affect sales and onboarding, bring the sales and onboarding specialists into the conversation. I do all of these in-person over zoom or sometimes in a synchronous communication. I prefer in-person, though because vocal tone is important. Present the problem, ask them what they think, tell them their input is important, explain the pain that you are trying to relieve.

My ideas on how to solve problems are not always the best ones because of my perspective. I can only see one angle into the problem, and I need my specialists to show me the other angles. By presenting ideas to specialists, you will get all kinds of potential solutions.

3. List all potential failures and mitigation tactics

Once you’ve presented the pain you are facing/the problem that needs to be solved and ask for their help, they will usually come up with all kinds of potential failures. Do not misconstrue this. They are not telling you that your idea won’t work, they are presenting you with all the information, so it doesn’t fail.

By brining specialists together, we can see how the potential solution will affect various systems. We can ask each other “what if” questions and brainstorm on alternate solutions. List all potential hiccups and failures, so you can mitigate it.

Listen, ask questions, and collaborate.

This is the magic. Once your team feels as if they are involved in the process and that you value their opinion and input, they take ownership, and they buy in.

Your team may come up with a totally different solution than you had planned. As long as we reach the same end goal, it doesn’t really matter how we got there.

4. Plan and ship!

Once you’ve filtered it, you’ve brainstormed with your team, and you’ve mitigated risk, you can plan the change and start to ship without internal friction. Leave it to your specialists to plan and present the change to the rest of the company. Let them take ownership of the idea and the outcome.

TL;DR The formula is: Filter + Specialist brainstorm + Mitigation + Plan and Ship = Staff buy-in to change

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