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Leadership Buy-in- What is it? How to Achieve it?

Throughout my career, I’ve often been tasked with moving mountains and by mountains of course, I’m talking about project management! If you know anything about HR (and if you’re a loyal follower of this blog, you should have your Masters in it by now), then you know project management is a huge and critical part of HR.

When it comes to projects or initiatives (as some would call them), I’ve been on ones ranging from small and localized to those that expand across multiple departments.

First, let’s back up regarding project management. Let’s put it like this: before you can even think about your grand vision to improve the break room with new vending machines or a coffee maker that makes a mean espresso, you must do the one thing that can make your project a success rather than a failure. That is, secure LEADERSHIP BUY-IN!

I’ve seen well-meaning projects, projects that could actually make a difference, crash and burn like your favorite former reality TV star, all while other projects that truly crawled out of the ninth circle of hell actually get implemented (open floor office concepts anyone?) due to one major difference: leadership buy-in.

So, what exactly am I talking about when I say “leadership buy-in”?

Simply put, leadership buy-in is getting not only permission for a project but also (and this is important) SUPPORT from those in higher and more powerful positions than you are.

Support isn’t just your boss saying, “Yes, Jessica I agree with updating the vending machines to include unlimited fruit snacks.” That’s nothing. You want your boss to agree with your decision, publicly show their support, and make it clear he/she will provide the resources you need to make your project a reality.

Let’s break it down. Here’s why leadership buy-in is critical:

  1. Support: If your managers don’t believe in your goals then no one else will and nothing will get done.

  2. Resources: Leaders have access to support and resources you don’t and will make those available to you to complete your project. Resources can come in the form of other people, time, and of course, money.

  3. Agreement: People might not like the project but if management is backing your plan, trust and believe they will too. They don’t really have a choice.

And of course, implementing projects is easier when everyone has your back!

How to Secure Leadership Buy-in

  1. Reputation - There is a saying, “Your reputation enters the room before you do.” Meaning, if you’re an employee with a demonstrated history of quality work and have a good attitude, leadership is more likely to listen to you and co-sign your ideas. Use this good reputation to your advantage to make change.

  2. Research- Please do your research prior to changing anything. Nothing is worse than someone having ideas for the sake of having them. You NEVER want to sit in front of your boss without a solid understanding of the situation and have a research-supported game plan for how to address it.

  3. Presentation- Number two of course leads to this, present your ideas in the following way: state the current situation and its effects and then provide the solution and how to achieve it. If your proposal costs money, include the estimated cost and propose ideas on how the company can either cover or even recoup costs if possible.

Follow Up- Once you get buy-in, make sure the leadership is actively supporting you and follow up regarding your progress, obstacles, delays, and needs. By keeping everyone on the same page, it lends credibility to your reputation and promotes the project’s success.

Follow this advice and you will be moving mountains in no time!

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