Establish trust for better buy-in

Published 9:53 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017

By Elaine Lankford

No matter your political slant, you must admit that in our lifetime Ronald Reagan was one of the most effective presidents this country has seen.

With a wicked sense of humor and contagious optimism, his ability to work with both sides of the aisle was amazing. I’m sure there were some tense times during his administration, but none of us can forget the influence he had on people like Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher.


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He left us with some great one-liners: “Trust, but verify” and “The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.”

He also said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” And that leads us to The Law of Buy-In, which states: “People buy into the leader, then the vision.”

In his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” John Maxwell puts it this way: “People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.”

Think of it this way. Most of us have probably given to one charitable organization or another. No matter the type of organization, the reason we give is most likely due to a person associated with the cause.

For example, when I was an oncology nurse, I participated in the Relay for Life events. I knew the money raised by these events would go to cancer research, but it was all those patients I had taken care of over the years that made me want to do it.

In business, leaders must keep in mind that before they promote their next idea, they must already have the buy-in of their employees — not for the idea, but for the leader.

I love this quote from the book: “Every message that people receive is filtered through the messenger who delivers it.” If our employees find us creditable, they will most likely find value in our message.

So, what happens when you put the leader and the vision together? John gives us four likely outcomes depending on buy-in:

  • When followers don’t like the leader or the vision, they look for another leader.
  • When followers don’t like the leader, but they do like the vision, they look for another leader.
  • When followers like the leader, but not the vision, they change the vision.
  • When followers like the leader and the vision, they get behind both!

What’s the secret of obtaining buy-in that leads to action? Make sure you don’t put the vision before the leader. People need to know you as a leader first, before they can support your vision, and that takes time.

For instance, if you’re a leader in an organization, but you just started the job, don’t expect that those reporting to you will jump on board the first idea you present. Give them time to get to know you. Likewise, if you’re a leader with tenure, but you’ve never made it a habit to consistently interact with those who work for you, chances are your employees are less than enthusiastic about your ideas.

Strategically work on building relationships of mutual trust and respect in the office. Once you have earned some credibility, start with a small idea and see how much support you receive.

When support can be obtained on a regular basis, you will know that you have allowed the Law of Buy-in to work its magic and will be ready to launch that big picture vision you’ve been patiently holding back.

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer, and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her at