We’ve all had to sit through that all-hands meeting where leadership unveils that year’s big, overarching objectives.
Chances are, as the company’s marketing leader, you had a hand in establishing those goals with your fellow leaders—it’s something you all do on a quarterly or annually basis.
After that? You hold a brief meeting with your team and give them the lowdown on the key goals ahead. You answer a few questions, and then it’s back to business as usual.
Usually, these objectives are mapped out in some fashion—a strategy doc, OKRs, KPIs, or a timeline. But written out like that, those goals don’t seem as tangible or achievable.
When you have a team so focused on the present, future goals can seem far away. As a result, the team isn’t enthusiastic or invested in achieving them.
Goal Buy-In: Why is it Such a Challenge?
Every team member should feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the company. But, there is one major barrier that prevents that from happening: communication.
“Marketing leaders communicate from a leader’s perspective instead of the employee’s perspective,” explains Krishna Powell, Leadership Consultant and CEO of HR 4 Your Small Biz, LLC, a boutique-style human resources consulting firm.
“Employees oftentimes tune out leader speak,” she adds.
As a leader within the company, you have a much different view of those goals. You’re looking from the top-down, meaning you’re better equipped to see the entire picture.
“From the top-down, all the projects and goals work together, forming a strategy designed to achieve the company-level goals,” says Dave Labowitz, Business and Leadership Coach, “In contrast, team members at non-senior levels of the organization are looking at projects from the bottom up.”
“Without the larger, top-down context, company-wide goals can seem abstract and disconnected from a team’s day-to-day work,” he continues, “It’s difficult to embrace a company-wide goal when it seems so far away.”
7 Practical Tips to Get Your Team's Buy-In
Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome those common communication roadblocks. Here are seven different tactics you can use that get your team invested and excited.
1. Ensure Leadership is Aligned
You can’t expect your employees to align themselves with company goals if the organization’s leaders aren’t in agreement in the first place. That’s why alignment between decision makers is a crucial first step.
This is important for a few reasons. First, you and your fellow leaders will have clarity, which will prevent any confusion or unnecessary efforts between your teams.
Secondly, how can you expect your team to commit when you haven’t yourself? It’s hard to project commitment where none exists. “When a leader doesn’t fully believe in the goals for whatever reason, their body language will betray their words,” says Alison Henderson, Body Language Expert and CEO of Moving Image Consulting.
Your team is smart. They’ll be able to spot your false enthusiasm and, as a result, start questioning those goals themselves.
2. Involve Team Members in the Goal-Setting Process
Bring your team members into the goal-setting process from the beginning. This helps them see the big picture from your vantage point.
They may not be able to sit in on those strategy sessions with you and your fellow leaders. However, you don’t need to always keep them at arm’s length.
When leadership has settled on the main objectives or OKRs, take that list to your team. Share the goals that have been outlined, and then ask this simple question:
What can we do as a team to contribute to this goal?
For example, your organization has decided they want a reputation as a thought leader in the human resources space.
What are some things your team can do to push that forward? Open the floor to your team’s suggestions. From writing guest posts for reputable blogs and publications, to speaking at industry events, to hosting webinars—the list goes on and on.
This simple exercise connects a seemingly untouchable goal to the day-to-day work of your employees. Grasping the bigger picture in this manner will motivate them to perform at their best.
In fact, one Gallup study shows that employees are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged when they’re involved in the goal-setting process.
3. Use Language Your Team Understands
It’s human nature—we tend to communicate in ways that resonate with us, as opposed to others. When motivating your team to invest in company-wide goals, you need to put yourself in their shoes.
“Leaders should motivate in the way their team needs to hear the goals, rather than doing so in a way that would convince themselves,” says Henderson, “Leaders must be in tune with their teams. What motivates them? Do they need the goal given with information, value, or process to gain buy-in?”
One surefire way to ensure team members comprehend those goals? By tying those objectives to the work and performance of each individual employee.
4. Tie Company Goals to Individual Goals
There’s one thing you know your team members are already invested in—their own performance and success as part of your team.
This is why you need to bridge the gap between company-wide objectives and individual performance goals. This step accomplishes a couple of things we’ve already touched on, including:
- Involving the employee in the goal-setting process
- Speaking and motivating in a way that’s relevant to the employee
Additionally, explaining how company goals relate to individual goals also provides the necessary context team members need to be successful (more on that later).
Your company-wide goals should be established before anything else. At that point, you can sit down with individual employees to ask how their individual work can contribute to those objectives.
“Asking the employee to establish goals they would like to accomplish that align with what the department is trying to accomplish is the best initial approach to the goal setting event,” says Diane Derubertis in a post for The Center for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University.
After doing so, employees will feel ownership of those larger goals, and also possess a greater understanding of what’s expected of them individually.
5. Explain the “Why”
Providing the necessary context is crucial for getting buy-in from your employees. They won’t feel invested in company-wide goals if they don’t understand why they exist in the first place.
“It’s critical to explain to them how their work is connected to the bigger picture,” says Labowitz, “This means taking the time to explain the ‘why’ of what you’re asking them to do.”
You can’t just highlight the objective—you need to share the reasoning behind it. What factors led to the inception of that goal? Why does it matter? What impact will it have on your team and the organization?
“As a leader, you’ll get far better buy-in from your team when you take the time to fill in the gaps in context so they can understand how their work fits into the larger picture,” Labowitz adds, “It’s like doing a 500-piece puzzle. It’s virtually impossible to grasp the picture from a single piece. But, when you show someone the box cover, they understand the beauty of the whole and how their piece fits in.”
“It’s also a great teaching opportunity, as explaining the ‘why’ behind assignments helps the team level up their thinking to a more senior level. If you make this a habit, over time, they’ll start connecting the dots on their own.”
Need help inspiring your team members to understand their individual impact? Check out our guide to explain where and how they fit in.
6. Demonstrate Enthusiasm
If you aren’t excited about those goals and milestones, you can’t expect your team to be.
“Employees need to believe and see that their leaders are truly engaged and excited about the goals that ensure the success of the organization,” says Powell, “Leaders talk about and market goals like they’re checking off a box.”
However, communicating in that way presents a goal as just another thing your team has to do—it’s a chore, as opposed to an exciting objective.
Demonstrate enthusiasm about those company-wide goals (as well as the impact they’ll make) and your team is far more likely to follow suit.
7. Revisit Goals Regularly
Too often, the goal-setting process looks like this: You explain a quarterly or annual goal to your team, and then drop it like a hot potato until it’s time to see how the team measured up to expectations.
That’s disheartening and counterproductive. You need to make progress visible—not just the finish line.
“It’s easy for company-wide goals to fall into the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ bucket if they’re not revisited regularly,” says Labowitz, “If a company goal is important enough to be set, it’s important enough to be tracked and reported back to the team on a regular basis so they know how they’re performing against the target.”
Keep your team in the loop on progress. And, of course, celebrate those milestones and achievements that happen along the way! Recognizing and rewarding those will motivate your team to keep going.
You need your team to feel a connection and investment in those overarching goals that your company sets. But, it can be challenging to communicate those objectives in a way that gets your team excited.
Fortunately, there are tactics you can implement to better connect individual employees to those larger goals. These include:
- Ensuring leader alignment first and foremost
- Involving team members in the goal-setting process
- Speaking in language your team understands
- Tying company goals to individual goals
- Providing necessary context
- Demonstrating enthusiasm
- Revisiting goals regularly
Do those things, and you’re sure to witness a greater understanding and a much higher commitment level from each employee on your team.