Before You Lead Remember to Get Buy-In

Do you have a target for where you are aiming? With your classroom, clients, office, or congregation? As a parent?

That is great. We call that a vision. It is the grand narrative you are laying out in front of your people of where you want to go – call it the “bulls-eye.”

But it is not enough.

This post today is not about vision, though vision is both necessary and important. What I want to challenge you with is what you have put on your “pre-flight checklist.” You know, making sure everything is ready before the journey.

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It is about buy-in.

In my younger days of leadership, leading was often just about seeing the goal in front of me and yelling loudly “Let’s go! Follow me!” Buy-in took too long and, quite frankly, was not at the top of my list. Getting the job done, with my people in tow, was job one.

So what do I mean by buy-in?

Think of buy-in as your “why.” Why is this journey important? Why do I need to look at this coming change in this manner? Why is this bulls-eye even necessary to point towards? Why do I need to get on board?”

Buy-in is not just helpful, it is absolutely essential. It is not just key, it is critical.

And to illustrate, I want to give you an example that has truly resonated with me as I watched up close.

Sports give an endless supply of both positive and negative examples. Today, if you will allow me, I would like to speak one more time about my daughter’s basketball team, because this gives one of the best examples of buy-in that I have seen up close and personal.

As I have discussed in a prior post a few weeks back, Hardship Grows Your Gratitude, my daughter’s high school basketball team just completed one of those rebuilding seasons as she was the only returning varsity player on her team.

Not returning starter. Returning player.

And my wife got the opportunity this year to coach this squad of girls. And they are one young team, and many have just not had a lot of time on the basketball floor as they are newer to the game.

I love my wife for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that she coaches my daughter.

My wife is quite an amazing coach. I take stats and so I have had the benefit of seeing the season unfold from a very close perspective that others may not have.

We all knew this season would not be like last season, where we won Regionals and got within one victory of going to the state final four.

This year was quite a different story. Our girls won one game all season. They were the 8 seed playing the 1 seed in state playoffs last week. And we ended up losing by 20. But if you were to have been at the game, you would have noticed that during and after the game, everyone was supportive and congratulatory. It almost felt like we won.

And as I was looking around the gym and taking it all in, it hit me why the season ended in the fashion that it did.

My wife got the players to buy-in. And she had a great assistant coach who only reinforced her plan. I call them the Dynamic Duo.

As the season started, everyone had high hopes that we could at least have some competitive games. But as the season unfolded and we were losing by 30-40 points, reality set in…hard.

For my wife to focus on only wins would have been crushing. But what she did was brilliant: she got the team to buy-in to her vision for the team, which had nothing to do with wins. It had everything to do with losing with character, playing till the horn sounded, incrementally improving their game, playing in and through hardship, and growing together…as one unified team.

Losses can tear a team apart. But not ours.

The vision for the team no longer was about winning, though winning is always fun. The focus became getting these girls to see a different bulls-eye for themselves and the team, one that was stretching yet manageable, lofty but attainable.

She got them to block out the noise around them and focus on the better pass, the smarter shot, the confident dribble, the aggressive rebound, no complaining, love each other, wins don’t make us, do you see what you did just do it better next time, accountable for behavior, the refs cannot lose the game, own your play mentality. And trust the coaches. And be teachable.

Quite an agenda.

And so the pressure of having to win simply…was…not…there. Sure, we savored that one win we got and wanted more!

But over the season, the girls bought in and were all in. And the parents bought into the same thing. My wife showed these young players just how to keep moving forward because what they thought was their goal (i.e. winning) was not really the goal. And over time, they bought into the better goal.

And that was being tough, gritty, play-through-the-disappointment, respecting and loving each other, and realizing that their value and their worth had absolutely nothing to do with their skills in basketball.

And so fast forward back to our final game last week.

We played the 1 seed in our bracket and lost by 20. But if you watched the team, you would have noticed we got down 20-6 in the first five minutes but almost played them evenly the remainder of the game. These girls did not give up or give in. They kept doing all the little things right and kept chipping away at this very good team.

When it was over, we had played our best game of the season. We scored our most points. We had fewer turnovers. I saw things clicking, I saw girls playing smart, I saw the extra pass, the strong rebound, and play-to-the-end attitude. Multiple girls had big games. And our two captains led like leaders of character. The four girls pictured above are going to be next year’s seniors. They bought in and are already looking forward to next year. They heard the message and believed it.

And so the excited response at the end by our fans might have seemed like an anomaly, but it really wasn’t. You see, the coach and her assistant consistently put a vision before these girls but more importantly, laid the foundation to help these girls really buy-in.

All of them.

It was a lesson for me for sure.

I am glad if you have a vision for your people. You need to.

But more important, what are you doing to get those who follow you to truly buy in, to set aside personal agendas or probing doubts, and say, “Coach, I’m all in. Lead us. We trust you.”

It won’t just magically happen because you point your finger in a direction. It has to be strategic and it has to be intentional. And it will take time.

I saw it first hand. And it worked.

You may have an amazing vision, but if you also take the time to carefully nurture and posture yourself to create buy-in, you will also find that a “winning season” may take on a different definition.

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2 thoughts on “Before You Lead Remember to Get Buy-In

  1. Deep emotions filled my mind and heart as I read this. When you are in the midst of the leading, it is hard to see progress. Thank you, my sweet Antone, for reflecting on this season with eyes that pointed to a victory way beyond the scoreboard! I miss the team already :-).

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