Standards Part 2- Achieving Buy-in

Posted on January 3, 2010

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Having discussed about the importance of setting standards and several key traits of the standards we should strive to set, we now move forward to discuss how we can achieve buy-in in the standards we set.

I believe that a major problem faced by many new and untested leaders is that they decide upon and set the standards unilaterally, which means to say, on their own, without any inputs from the other members of the team. As a result, the standards set may be seen as unfair or unachievable by the rest of the team members. Moreover, they would likely view the standards as demands and rules imposed upon them rather than a framework used to create maximum efficiency in their job, hence resenting it. Without feeling that the standards belong to them, it would be difficult for the team members to even follow it. As such, it is evident that for standards to be welcomed and acted upon, buy-in should be achieved.

This can be done in two ways. The underlying principle is that for the team to accept the standards, they must feel that they have a part in it. In his book, “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels
”, Michael Watkins advocated the consult-and-decide method or the gaining consensus method to be used.

The consult-and-decide method would be suitable for larger teams where it is not feasible to gather everyone for a brainstorming session. It would also be useful if a large part of the team is less experienced. Basically, what happens here is that the leader of the team consults members whose views could be more representative of the team or are more influential among the team. This way, he is able to capture the majority of the consensus before making the decision. It is worthy to note that in this case, it is still the leader who makes the decision; the members provide insight for him to do so.

The gaining consensus method would be more suitable if it is imperative to achieve mutual agreement. In this case, the leader guides the team in a brainstorming process and the team eventually decides on the standard they want for themselves. Here, the leader’s role is to guide the process, where the actual decision is made based on the consensus of the team.

It is important to note that regardless of which method we may choose to use to set standards and achieve buy-in, we, as the leader of the team, will ultimately still be held responsible for the standards of the team. As leaders, we are accountable for standards, or lack thereof to our bosses and subordinates. As such, should our professional assessment tell us that our team would be better off with a higher standard, we should hold firm to our stand. In such cases, buy-in can still be achieved as long as we properly communicate our stand and show our team that it is of the highest positive intention that we decided as we did. It would also help to answer any further doubts that members may have about your judgment so as to prevent unhappiness.

Above all, it is wise to always keep in mind that your team would much more likely respond to a framework that they have a part in shaping rather than a set of rules imposed on them. Using the “Set by team, agreed by all” principle, we are well on our way to achieve buy-in in the standards set by the team.

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