One of the most important leadership and management concepts is that of “buy-in” – getting the group to buy into the vision of the leader.
Buy-in isn’t necessary in a hierarchical organization – one with many levels of bosses. In that kind of organization the BOSS says what’s going to happen, and everyone just does it, whether they like it or not. If they don’t, they get fired, punished, whatever…
Anyone who has served as a leader in BBYO understands buy-in – even if they don’t call it that. They know that you have to communicate with the members and persuade them. You can’t just order people to do things in BBYO. Not only will they not do it, they’ll stop coming. A leader in BBYO is a leader – not a boss, and any who try to act like a boss quickly run into resistance and problems.
Successful advisors understand the value of buy-in as well. They don’t just enforce policy and health & safety decisions, they explain them. They communicate with the chapter why they made certain decisions and work with them to come up with solutions that work for the benefit of the chapter.
One of the best ways to accomplish buy-in is to ask people for their opinions and suggestions. When someone is part of defining a solution, they take ownership of it, believe in it, and support it. Asking advice and asking for help are incredibly powerful techniques for chapter leaders. And when an advisor has to make a policy call, it does not reduce his or her authority at all to take the time to not only explain the decision, but to ask chapter leaders for their opinions and for suggestions for implementation. On the contrary, doing so increases the chance that the decision will be one that everyone is happy with, and that it will be enforced.
Buy-in is such a fundamental management principle, that it is astonishing how little it is practiced at higher levels in BBYO. Logic would suggest that before decisions that impact chapters are made at the international level, some form of communication would go out to chapters and advisors to get feedback as to the possible consequences of those decisions. Yet this never seems to happen. No wonder innovations (such as B-Linked and Dashboard) are often met with skepticism and resistance.