Get buy-in to gain commitment

Employees discussing ideas (Photo: Hispanolistic/E+/Getty Images)
Employees discussing ideas (Photo: Hispanolistic/E+/Getty Images)
Employees discussing ideas (Photo: Hispanolistic/E+/Getty Images)
Hear ’em out When employees feel like they are included and valued, their commitment grows. (Photo: Hispanolistic/E+/Getty Images)

Building great teams requires trust as the foundation. When there is a willingness to trust, it’s possible to let your guard down and engage in healthy conflict. We looked at both of these areas in previous articles. What’s really great about conflict is that it allows everyone on the team a chance to provide input before a decision is made. When our voices are heard, we are more likely to support a decision, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it.

Let’s compare two scenarios. In the first scenario, your boss invites you to attend a brainstorming session regarding a big decision that has to be made soon. Your boss tells you your input is essential, valuable and that a decision will be better made with your perspective. How does that action make you feel? How likely are you to be supportive? How does this affect your level of commitment?

In the second scenario, you receive an email about a decision that was made a week ago without your input or knowledge. This decision greatly affects your work, and it was a terrible decision that would not have been made if someone had only taken the time to ask you about it first. How does that situation make you feel? How likely are you to be supportive? How does this affect your level of commitment?

If we are included, our commitment level increases. It’s a natural consequence of feeling part of the team, valued and heard. When we’re excluded, the opposite is true. Author Patrick Lencioni uses the phrase “weigh in to buy in” in his best-selling book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” When we’re able to weigh in on a decision, we are more likely to buy in to the decision. When we buy in, our commitment level rises.

We often hear phrases like “ownership mentality” and “taking ownership” to describe a desired level of commitment, as if this level of commitment may be obtained just by setting expectations. In my experience, this approach is misguided. Just because I expect my people to be “all in” for the company doesn’t mean they will be. I need to act like they are an owner for them to begin to see themselves as an owner.

Consider the implications of having crew leaders who take ownership of their crews, as if they owned the company themselves, versus having crew leaders who couldn’t care less. What are the implications in terms of damaged equipment, lost or stolen tools, productivity, quality and customer satisfaction? I think we all can agree that the difference is night and day.

I often see leaders attempting to increase commitment levels through punitive approaches. They seek to control, manipulate or instill fear to gain commitment. Avoid this approach. It will ultimately backfire. There may be short-term gains, but employee turnover and dissatisfaction will eventually lead to failure.

I also see leaders providing generous incentive compensation opportunities to motivate behavior. This is a better approach; however, I would rather see incentive compensation used to reward achievement than to gain commitment. For example, a management team sharing in the success of the highly profitable year is a great thing. But handing out bonus checks to keep the team’s “head in the game” feels more like a bribe than anything. Commitment is more about engagement than compensation.

Where to begin? As mentioned previously, lay the foundation by establishing trusting relationships and creating opportunities for healthy conflict to occur among team members, so everyone on the team has an opportunity to be heard. These disciplines are often missing in landscape companies, but the return on investment is huge. Stop demanding commitment and start engaging your people in the decision-making process. Everyone will reap the benefits.

Now go forth.

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