A lack of buy-in from your delivery team is the first of three challenges Gerald’s clients are facing. Listen to this podcast and discover these challenges, what to do about them and how to hold your team accountable to agreed upon decisions and plans.


Welcome to Workplace Jazz and How to IMPROVISE, your trusted resource for creating high performing agile teams and learning the secrets used by today’s jazz musicians and their professional ensembles. I’m your host, Gerald J. Leonard.


I’m often asked what the top challenges my clients are facing regarding workplace culture and productivity are? So let me share what I believe are the three things that clients are facing regarding workplace culture and what I usually share with my clients that they need to focus on. The first one is a lack of buy-in from the team, your business, or your delivery team. Secondly, you have a set of values, but no one’s living those values, and the costs are not used to make day-to-day decisions within the company. Third, the organization’s future vision is not as straightforward or compelling as it needs to be. When people give into a vision, they give into a vision and buy into it because it’s compelling. It’s bigger than themselves, and they see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves.


So let’s go back to number one. This comes down to this question around buy-in. In my book, Culture Is the Bass, I share this concept of buy-in is a team sport. In a piece for HBR from Harvard Business Review, John Carter states that people have to feel the pain of the problem first before they can buy into the vision, which is the solution. And you have to make it real for those who are trying to get buy-in. And when I think about buy-in being a team sport, buy-in is something that happens because it’s not something that is just because it’s your idea. You give the intent of what you’re trying to accomplish, and you get the team to work together.


One of the ways I do this personally as a consultant, if I’m working with a team and we’re trying to figure out a solution, I ask them actually to close their laptops. I give them sticky notes of various colors, and we go into a room, or even now, with COVID going on and happening, we’ll bring up a whiteboard inside of a Zoom session, and we will begin to share; each person shares what they think is a solution. And once we hone down to that solution, we begin to create what I call a work breakdown structure or a way of breaking the work down, but the work ideas come from everyone on the team. And no idea is a bad idea.


By the time we’re done and developing a plan to address this problem, it’s no longer my plan. It’s the team’s plan. Everyone on the team has created that plan. And they naturally buy into it because it’s no longer my plan; it’s our plan. And they hold me accountable just as much as they want me to hold them responsible because it’s our plan. So the next time you go about building a plan, think that buy-in is a team sport. Again, I talk about this in my first book; Culture Is the Bass.


Now, number two, with values. Values are something to be lived by. Often, companies take values and have our value is integrity; our value is our people. And then when things get tough, guess what they do. They cut their people. So that says that your people are not your value, because if the people were your value, they will be the last thing that would get cut. You would do everything in your business to hold onto your great people before cutting them. From Marriott, John Willard created an environment where people were trusted and connected and were the most important part of his business. He states that an effective leader knows how to challenge others to work towards organizational goals. The most important role a leader can have or take place is to believe in the one common goal and work hard for a unified purpose.


It is important to maintain composure during challenging times because subordinates will turn to the original leaders during those trying times. They’re going to look to your example. Are you living the values that we wrote down when things were good? If we’re living those values out on a day-to-day basis, then we know we have true values. And really, John Willard Marriott has some fantastic values. And in fact, I looked up their guiding principles, and some of their guiding principles were right the first time. That was one of their values because he felt like he wanted people not to waste time getting it wrong. And so that meant that you had to spend time getting advice, getting instructions, getting feedback before you acted so that you can make sure you got it right the first time. And if you made a mistake, if you did all those other things, he allowed that mistake to happen because he knew you were going to learn from it. It was a learning experience.


Another value that he had was money is a big thing, but it’s not the only thing. He believed that the company needed to make money, but it wasn’t the only thing a company needs to make. Another one that he had was a caring workplace is the bottom-line issue. That if you want to have excellent customer service, they have a devoted workplace environment where the people that work with you know that you care about them as individuals. The fourth one is to promote from within. That was one of his values. If you came into Marriott as a dishwasher, or you were brought in to help make up the hotel bedrooms, you had an opportunity to grow to the corporate level if you wanted it because he would lay out the pathway for you to do that because he genuinely believed in you promote from within.


And then the last thing was to build your brand for your associates. That the brand of a company was created for the people who work for the company. In my book, Culture Is the Bass, the bass is like the Culture of a song. When you have a great bassline and great music, people are going to bop their heads, and they’re going to dance to it, or they’re going to be moved by it. It’s the same as it’s the metaphor for a great company culture or the company’s branding. So you have to have incredible values that you live by even in tough times.


Lastly, you have to have a compelling vision, and you have to share that vision. So here are some questions to think about. Do you have a compelling vision? What is your company’s mission? And are people moved from their heart? Not just from their head or their hands, but from their heart. Do they give their heart to the mission of the organization? What results are you looking for, and are they aligned to fulfill your company’s vision? When you think about the vision, the good book says that people perish without a vision, but with a vision, people prosper.


Your job as a leader or even a worker for your department is to create and develop a compelling vision because when you have everyone in your organization who understands the vision. They buy into the vision, understand the vision, and have goals or values that people live by that aligns with your vision. You tell stories that people buy into, and they make them a part of the process; you’re setting yourself up to create an organization that will thrive, that’s going to gel, that’s going to make things happen in season and out of season.


You think of the situation that we’re dealing with right now in the pandemic, innovative companies with a larger than life vision, have outstanding values, and know how to get buy-in from their employees they have not missed a beat. They’ve virtualized their company. And even if it’s a restaurant, they’ve figured out how to keep selling and keep things moving along even in this environment. One of the places I love to stop to eat every once in a while is not a commercial for them, but this is just an example, Chick-fil-A. They were one of the first organizations from a fast-food standpoint that changed their entire process to protect their employees and customers during this pandemic.


And how do you know that they’re still doing a great job? Whenever you try to go to a Chick-fil-A, there’s a line around the building of customers. So from a financial standpoint, because they had a compelling vision, they had great values and got buy-in, they’ve not lost a beat when meeting their customers’ needs. But organizations where they didn’t think that through, they’re out of business now. And they probably will never come back again. And so having a compelling vision, set of values, and getting buy-in with your team is life or death to your company or your organization.


When you think about what can I do now? Maybe I didn’t have that before, or perhaps I did have what I can do now? Well, now you can develop a clear vision, make sure that your vision that you’re creating for your organization, for your company, for your church, for your family, whatever that is, that it’s compelling. That people look to it and are like, “Man, I can’t wait to be a part of this.” Your values are exact and livable, and that you’re living those values even when times get tough. You share stories that create buy-in, and your team members are included in the creation process. You’re kind of like the general that gives the commander’s intent, and you get everyone on the team to help figure out how to carry that until now. You may end up with some innovative ideas that you never thought of because they came from boots on the ground.


To get a copy of my book, you can go to geraldjleonard.com or go to amazon.com and search for Culture Is the Bass. In there, you’ll find the three principles that I just talked about, but you’ll also learn about the seven steps for creating high-performing teams.


You’ve been listening to Workplace Jazz with me, Gerald J. Leonard. How to IMPROVISE. Thanks for listening.

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