We’ve talked a lot about the need for executive buy-in on basically every major project, plan or strategic initiative that you may have, including your community rollout, but it’s easier said than done, right?
I know that was a rhetorical question, but I’d still like to respond to myself: YES. Way easier said than done!
Today, I’ll be discussing how to actually get the executive buy-in to projects and plans that we talk so much about and that we claim are absolutely necessary. I’ve spent some time throughout my career both seeking to secure executive buy-in, and also suffering the repercussions of either not getting buy-in from all executives, or being unable to maintain their buy-in status. As a result, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to go about getting buy-in and ensuring that your executives don’t flip over to the dark side after they’ve bought in.
I’d like to share some of the tactics that I’ve found most successful. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Start with One
First things first - start with getting a solid backing from one executive. The worst thing that you can do is dive head first into all your organizations’ executives at once and try to convince all of them at the same time that they should buy-in. Let’s face it, taking a 1 on 1 is much easier than a 1 on 10!
At the very beginning, you’ll be in one of two positions:
You’ve been directed by one executive to create a project plan of some sort, and you therefore already have the backing of one executive, or;
You’ve come up with the idea on your own and currently have zero backing.
If you’re in position A, you’re already half-way there.
If you’re in position B, you need to sit down and have a conversation with an executive that you think would be most likely to buy-in to your idea. Essentially, you need a member of the executive team to vouch for you and support your idea. I’d suggest going for the executive who you have the best relationship with, or who you believe would benefit most from your plan.
Consider this executive to be your mentor; the person that will help grow your plan so that all the other executives can realize the value that it can bring to the organization. Once you have buy-in from this one person, you want to ensure that you meet with them regularly while you develop a framework for your plan. Not only is their input into the plan central in convincing the others to buy-in, but it’s also something you should always carefully consider since after all, they’re an executive for a reason and you could surely learn a thing or two from their expertise!
Plan and Execute Your Buy-In Strategy
One you have a framework or outline of the plan that you’re trying to sell, you now need to begin the process of planning how you’ll get everyone onboard. I’d start by taking a brief overview of your executive team and think about what issues or challenges they might have with your plan as individuals, or as the leader of a department.
For example, how will your plan impact the VP of Sales? In what way does your plan affect the sales department? These are things that you want to consider before you meet with everyone so that you have a good idea on how to tackle the issues that may come up.
You want to ensure that your planning the buy-in strategy closely with the executive that's already supporting you; they’ll likely know the issues that the other executives will have with the plan before you do, and will know how to tackle these road bumps in the most effective way. You also want to consider creating a business case, which will outline the amount of resources that your project requires—something your executive team will certainly want to know.
Some things to consider when planning your buy-in strategy include:
Determining how many you should meet at once
Determine how you will present your plan (powerpoint, report, etc.)
What aspects of your plan are open to iteration and which ones you’re set on
What the benefits will be for each department get from your plan (if applicable)
What stats (if any) do you have that show that your plan is likely to succeed?
How your plan will help each department reach their goals (if applicable)
Anything you may need from them (resources, etc.)
Any part of the plan that they would be responsible for
What they think “success” will look like for this plan, and any KPIs they want measured
A great way to secure buy-in from all members of the executive team is to show the value and impact that your plan will have for them. Additionally, you want to involve everyone in the decision making process since this is a good way to make sure that nobody changes their mind down the road.
You should therefore ensure that a brainstorm session is part of these first meetings to secure buy-in. In my experience, the more that people are able to personally contribute in a project, the more invested they become and therefore are less likely to recant their support.
Hold Regular Check-In Sessions
After you’ve gotten the support you need (hopefully it wasn’t too difficult) you want to make sure that you regularly check in with everyone on the executive team. This is especially important if they themselves are accountable for part of the plan. Keep in mind that these are executives, and they have a ton of other things on their plate. Don’t wait for them to come to you; on the contrary, you have to be proactive and meet with them around their busy schedule.
It’s important to hold regular check-ins so that you can ensure that any concern they may have is promptly addressed and nipped in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue and holds you back.
Further, as the “owner” of the plan, you want to continue having check-in sessions even after the plan has been rolled out. This should usually constitute updates on the success of the plan, including any KPIs that you are reporting on.
I hope this gave you some direction as to how to get executive buy-in. I know that it can be tough, especially if some are stuck in an old-fashioned way of doing things, however for the most part, your executives want to do everything they can to see success for their team and the organization.
Keep an open mind, listen to their feedback and incorporate it into your final plan so that everyone is equally invested. Further, if you're reading this for tips to secure buy-in for your online community forum, I'd definitely recommend checking out these statistics about online community forums since they'll certainly help your case!
Best of luck!