Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Getting "Buy In"

As my companies grow, I am finding that leading depends greatly depending upon who you are leading. My experience in the Marine Corps should help in this area, and it does to some extent. However, in the Marines, you generally are dealing with willing and motivated individuals. Marines are not paid very much, so it isn't the pay. While they have little choice in what unit or job they are in, they tend to go about their work with a certain gusto that is sometimes lacking in the civilian world.

The main difference between Marines and civilians is "buy-in". It has a lot to do with the training. Many people believe that Marines are trained to blindly obey orders. That is not really the case. In fact, when orders are unlawful, the Marines are encouraged to disobey. The big difference between Marines and civilians is that Marines know and recognize leadership. They are more willing to follow because they have better faith that their leaders are going to look out for them.

In my own experience, getting "buy-in" or agreement to a plan is far more difficult in the civilian world. To civilians, disagreeing with their leaders seems to be a positive trait. Of course, civilians can always quit their job if they truly don't believe in their leadership. Marines have no such option.

I have found that the only way to get agreement and buy-in in a civilian setting is to first establish that the leader is capable of leadership. Once people have faith in your ability to lead (by lead, I mean make the right decisions at the right time to achieve the right result), then they are far more willing to "buy-in" to your plans. Without faith in your leadership first, your plans fall on deaf ears and your decisions are always questioned.

Before anyone starts to call me an autocratic power monger, remember that my goals are all based upon the singular principal of serving the needs of the customer. My plans that I try to get buy-in over generally have to do with details that affect the customer's relationship with my companies.

Oh yeah, for all of those out there who stereotype Marine leadership as a mixture of yelling and screaming, you should visit a Marine base and watch some of the finest leaders care for, worry over and guide their young Marines through the most difficult days of their lives. Yelling and screaming is limited to the movies and bootcamp.

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