Nothing gets employees’ eyes rolling like a CEO returning on Monday morning from a management seminar with a brilliant new initiative by which the whole company will now be run. If you’re going to get your company truly committed to the idea of building enterprise value, you’ve got to get buy-in from everyone on board. Everyone must share the vision, so you have to find the algorithm for convincing really good people that they want to be part of this process.
How do you, as a C-level executive, create a sense of shared ownership with the entire leadership team? How do you get heads bobbing over this methodology for building value, so that all the thought and dreams actually come to fruition?
You and your leadership team must commit.
Commitment is actually threefold – it’s emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Most people don’t do anything unless they feel emotionally connected to the process. They don’t get married, buy a car, take a job, run a marathon, have a child, or do anything of importance without first having an emotional commitment to the process. People may intellectualize and rationalize ’til the cows come home, but they don’t do anything unless they have a gut-instinctual, emotional desire for doing it. And it must impact them directly.
For example, the award winning PBS series Frontline ran the “Poisoned Waters” documentary again this week and in it environmentalists talked about changing their message from “saving the Chesapeake Bay” to controlling traffic, fighting gridlock and improving the local living conditions. It turns out people will make huge commitments and sacrifices if they personally can see and feel the need for change. Saving the Bay is a great cause, but it seems so distant for most people in the watershed. Environmentalists have learned that moving people to control traffic, growth and gridlock will help the bay without ever making that plea.
So before you start marshaling arguments and building compelling intellectual reasons for making changes, concentrate on getting emotional buy-in first. Keep in mind that your staff and fellow executives are emotionally committed to doing things the way they’ve always been done, and they will use their powers of reasoning to swat away your brilliant new initiatives. What do you reach for first, their hearts or their minds? Without question, you should appeal to their hearts. Otherwise, their minds will be your worst enemy.