The clients we work with at PMC often ask for advice on how to get more buy-in from those they lead. Almost all of these leaders believe buy-in is obtained through personal qualities such persuasiveness, passion, intelligence, charisma, and so on. Important as these qualities are for any leader, they’re secondary when it comes to garnering commitment. The primary source of commitment is choice. That is, in order to truly commit to a course of action, those from whom commitment is sought must be given some choice about whether, or how, they will carry out the action. Think about it. If you have no choice in what you do or how you go about doing it, how will you feel? If you’re like most people, your natural response will be to feel as though you don’t really own your actions. It’s human nature. Ownership and commitment go hand in hand, so a lack of felt ownership almost always diminishes the commitment we would have – or at least could have – if we were given some choice in the matter. So, if you’re not getting the commitment you’d like from those you lead, consider the possibility that you may be constraining their choices too much. The more willing and able you are to let them choose (or at least influence) their own path, the more you will get their commitment. To be precise, you won’t be “getting them” to commit. Rather, to the extent they step up and make the choices you’re offering them, they will commit a result of their own choice-making.
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