Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seek Permission, Not Buy - In

Leaders and leadership teams can easily get sidetracked by the endless pursuit of buy-in.  The reason for this is we are looking for a way to get everyone on board.  It’s seldom needed.  Buy-in is overrated.  Most of the time, we don’t need buy-in from everyone as much as we need permission.

Buy-in is usually defined as having the support of most, in not all, of the key stakeholders and virtually all of the congregation.  It takes a lot of time to get and it’s incredibly elusive.

Permission, on the other hand, is relatively easy to acquire, even from those who think your idea is loony and bound to fail.  That’s because permission simply means, “I’ll let you try it,” as opposed to buy-in which means, “I’ll back your play.”

We’ve made a lot of changes at PCC over the years.  These decisions are most often made out of necessity or because of a new faith-based initiative we believe God is leading us towards.  Some have worked.  Some have tanked.  Yet, we have a remarkably healthy church for all its ups and downs and we are still incredibly flexible.

Frankly, if I had believed the buy-in myth I’d still be lobbying trying to convince everyone to move out of the High School, to buy 25 acres of land, to enter a three-years pledge campaign, to hiring staff, to upgrading systems, add infitim.  But since all I asked for was permission to try, I got the okay.  And whether it worked or not, I owned it.

Another advantage of not worrying too much about buy-in is that it make failure more palatable.  Permission not only gets things up and running much faster; it also makes it much easier to close up shop when a great idea proves to be a dumb idea.  Since nobody thought it would work in the first place, few chips are lost, and most people will let you try something else again next time.

But if everyone is pumped up and the buy-in is broad, failure becomes a big deal.  The more that a new program, ministry direction, or innovation has been pushed, sold, and championed, the higher the cost in credibility if it fails to fly.  And the greater the resistance the next time you want to try something new or different.

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