To get “Buy-In” you first need the “Believe-In”

I was listening to a podcast with Brendan Suhr, former NBA coach this morning and he said those very words.  It was in reference to the time he helped recruit the very first “Dream Team”.  You may recall, the year was 1992 and it was the first time professional basketball players were allowed to compete in the Olympics.

You can imagine what it was like sitting around the table with the greatest basketball players of all time.   Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullen, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and Christian Laettner.  Amazing talent!  What could you say to this group to get them to set down their personal egos and focus on what’s going to help them bring home a gold medal.

The night before the first practice, the legendary coach Chuck Daly began the conversation with two objectives.  The first was to cast the vision and develop the “Believe-In” statement – “Guys, we have to win the gold medal.  If we don’t, they won’t let us back into this country.”  Everyone laughed a bit, but resoundingly agreed.  All these guys absolutely believed they would win the gold medal.

The second objective was to get the “Buy-In”.  Gentlemen, you are the best basketball players in the world and if we are to accomplish the goal of bringing home the gold medal, we must work as a team, not as individual super stars.  Olympic basketball games are only 40 minutes instead of the 48 minutes you are used to playing.  We cannot keep you all on the floor for the same amount of playing time you are used to if we have any chance to win.  Are you all in agreement?  One by one, starting with Michael Jordan, they all agreed to the terms of the goal.  This is the “Buy-In”.

The challenge is that you can’t get real “Buy-In” if you don’t first have the “Believe-In.”  Too many times, we as leaders focus so much time trying to obtain buy-in, that we forget to give our teams something to believe in.  There’s nothing more dangerous in my opinion than surrounding yourself with a team of people who are acquiescing to direction without buying into the vision of the why.  At the first sign of stress or conflict, those who don’t know the why will be first to cast rocks at the vision.

By talking about and constantly taking your people to the top of the mountain to get a view, they will stay focused on the vision and have rock solid “Buy-in”.  As our teams are right now in the middle of one of the busiest 18 months building over 50 million dollars of infrastructure for the Westminster Station project, I am constantly reminding them and myself of how great the day will be win ribbons get cut and the project is complete.  Without this focus and belief in what will be, it would become easy to lose the ability to “Buy-In” to the daily tasks necessary to accomplish the goal.

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