In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with continuous improvement consultant and education leader Carly Basian on what it takes to get buy-in from your organization at every level.
Carly shares her insights and experience in...
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Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Carly Basian and here is why she is awesome. She's the Continuous Improvement Manager for Toronto Metropolitan University's Office of the Registrar, overseeing 150, 150 plus staff across 10 plus departments. It's called delegation, Carly. Carly is the Director of Education at 4L Academy, leading strategy and curriculum design for all instructors.
She also has a background in education and leadership, teaching and psychology. And she's here. Hi, Carly.
Carly Basian: Hello Russel. Thanks for having me today.
Russel Lolacher: Thrilled to have you on. Today, we're going to talk about buy-in, which is such an interesting topic that people just, it seems to be such a thing people can't get their head's wrapped around. So I'm thrilled to talk about it today, but Carly, you don't get off the hook on the first question that I have to ask all of my guests, which is what's your best or worst employee experience?
Carly Basian: Took me a while to pinpoint which one I wanted to share, but I came up with one of my earliest management experiences and memories. Which ties in perfectly to our topic today about buy-in. So I was the youngest manager in my organization. I was 26 years old. I had no pre previous experience and inherited a team that unfortunately underwent very toxic leadership management before me.
So went on Google and I figured out how do I be an effective manager? And then I heard about these things called one on ones. So I decided, great, I'm going to meet with each of my staff one on one to get to know them and try to get some buy-in and some trust because they just saw me as this 26 year old new grad.
What am I doing leading a team of 13 staff responsible for 200 million in government funding. So anyway, I met very first one on one with this woman who was very resistant to my leadership. And I thought we had an okay conversation. And then at the end I asked her, do you have any more questions for me?
And she looked at me and she said, How am I supposed to take you seriously when you're young enough to be my daughter? And I just had no, I had no idea how to respond to that and I felt so infantilized. I felt so insecure. Ageism at its finest. And I just, I had no idea where to even start to get my team to trust me and to get buy-in.
And over the course of four years, we transitioned from being a team that didn't trust me, didn't trust each other to being one of the most sought after teams in our organization. We will always have people coming to us asking to apply for roles. And it was a really powerful experience. So even though it was one of the most unpleasant Experiences I can think of, it ended up being one of the best because I learned so much from that. And that really launched my leadership journey and where I am today.
Russel Lolacher: So that gets me back to, and you, you talk to it, but I want to get into what it actually means to get buy-in. Because as someone so young going into a being so deflated, talking to someone who's throwing some ageism hardcore at you... what are you trying to achieve? What is buy-in for somebody who may not understand what that is?
Carly Basian: Yeah. So buy-in is when you're basically trying to convince your colleagues to start a new journey, take a new path, start a new project, do things differently, challenge the status quo. I think buy-in is interesting because we often think that it's up to a manager or a leader to make a decision about a direction and to Gather the troops and get be enthusiastic and, get people on board.
But I think that a, really important topic we don't talk a lot about is getting buy-in when you don't have a lot of power and you don't have a lot of influence. So I think as a, leader and as manager, it's important to have clarity and direction in terms of where you wanna go and to get your team involved, to be a part of those brainstorming conversations, to figure out what your next steps are and strategic planning and all of that.
But also, even if you don't have a team reporting under you, how can you manage up and get people above you to listen to what you have to say? So it's, you can go down either path. They're a little bit different, but at the end of the day, it's all about trust. It's all about communication. It's all about vision.
Russel Lolacher: True, but it's also about preconceived notions. It's also about the culture you're in as well. I mean, there's so many, you can prepare as much as you like, but if you're not talking to the right person or you're not in the right culture how much is I go back to your story of like, why should I talk to you, small child. You are nobody to talk to lofty influential executive type. So what can get in the way of buy-in besides those preconceived notions?
Carly Basian: I'll take the example as being a brand new leader or brand new manager of a team. It's hard to get buy-in if you're brand new to an area, maybe you don't know the work very well. I think really important is to put aside the ego. I think a lot of times when someone comes into a leadership position or management position, there's this assumption that you need to know everything.
I take a very different approach. I would be the first to admit, and I did this with this team I was managing at the time, I'm not an expert here. I was brought in for my expertise, which is job aids. Which is team building, trust building. You're the experts in what you do and I'm here to take your vision of what needs to change, what needs to be improved and I'm here to provide the resources to make that happen and lead that strategic direction. So it's, first step is just getting to know what are your team's pain points, having very frank and vulnerable conversations. It's supposed to be a safe space, a brave space, and asking the team, if you could wave a magic wand and make your problems disappear, what would those be? And what would that look like? And once you start to see some patterns, getting to build relationships, understand who can be those people to help make those changes happen... That's when you really start to see that buy-in take place. But if you come in and you're standing in front of your team and you pretend like you have all the answers and you know everything you need to do to make this team better, no one's going to listen to you.
They need to feel like the team needs to feel like they're also part of the solution. You have to showcase to them what's in it for them. Because if you're just pointing, saying you do this, you do that. They're not going to understand the bigger picture. So how can you get them to understand what's in it for them to make their life better?
Russel Lolacher: But I like my little silo, Carly. Like, why do I need to get buy-in? Why do I even need to make that attempt? Especially if you're saying people with no influence, who don't maybe have that lofty title... What is the intent of buy-in?
Carly Basian: That's a really good question and a hard one because yes, there will be people who will continue to work in their silos. They don't want to do anything differently. And at the end of the day, if you're a manager and you're providing a direction and someone is refusing to follow your lead. What I have experienced in the past, is that when you set a very intentional culture, and when you create this culture of what I do for my full time job, continuous improvement, trying to do things differently, make things better, eventually those people are going to move on.
They will be roadblocks. And they may throw some wrenches in the road and it's important to continue to have performance conversations because at the end of the day, if you are trying to make your team better and someone is getting in the way of that, you need to have a conversation with them and ask what is the fear that is holding you back from doing things differently?
Because when I work with people who are so afraid of making changes, because they're afraid of job security. They're afraid of learning new skills. They're afraid that they may be recognized as not having the skill set needed to do their job. But that's when, as a manager, you need to come in and do coaching.
So I, I think that even with the resistors, when you get down to the core of why are they resisting? It's your job as a manager to work with them to get the skills they need and the comfort they need to make progress.
Russel Lolacher: Is it different based on what you're trying to get buy-in for? So for instance, if you're trying to get the buy-in of being a new leader and getting your team to trust you versus I have a new idea around a policy change that I need the entire organization to pivot towards. Is there a different way of approaching it or is it a baseline DNA?
Carly Basian: There's definitely a different approach because in one circumstance, when you're a manager of a team, you have full authority in making changes. You have full authority in those decisions. When you are coming in as an external person and saying, I have this idea, I know I have no authority over the matter, but I think if we do this, you'll see some really wonderful results.
At the end of the day, you don't have a final decision in making that change. So that's what I do right now. I'm an internal consultant at Toronto Metropolitan University. And I'm there to provide insight and perspective for different teams. And at the end of the day, I don't get to make the final decision.
So the difference when you're coming in as an outsider, your number one step is to make relationships, build those relationships. Because if I'm coming in and you don't know the right stakeholders, you don't know the right people to speak to, someone gets an email from me and they've never seen my name before... they're not going to be that interested. But if I have taken the time to get to know them, get to know their problems, get to know their team, showcase what experiences I have and what I have brought forward to other teams, it's going to make that process easier. But at the end of the day, when you are providing direction and advice to an external group of people or an external employee from your team, you need to go in with the expectation that it may not be as easy as when you're managing a team and you have full authority over that team.
Russel Lolacher: So let's pivot a bit to that exterior team because you don't necessarily come in knowing as much about who you're trying to sway, for lack of a better word. Say you're going to executive for the very first time to get them to buy into your idea. Here's your opportunity there leader wannabe. So how do you prepare yourself before you go into a room that can be pretty intimidating for a lot of people to get that buy-in?
Carly Basian: For sure. Lots of pre meeting conversations. It's important to plant the seeds because if you're coming in and you're presenting to a group of people, a group of executives, they're busy. They have a very clear idea of what needs to happen. If you are not on the same page as them and you do not understand what they are looking for, you're already going to lose.
A lot of time when someone is trying to propose an idea, a project, doing something differently. We get into this trap of thinking about what's in it for me? But when you're coming in as an external person, you need to shift to what's in it for them. And when you can identify what are their pain points, what are their trigger points, and how can I make their life easier?
That's how you're going to get buy-in. So when you're meeting with an executive, so let's talk about... let's say you want to change a policy because it's not working for your team, and you're trying to find a a bridge between your team and this other team and the executive of this other team.
If you come in and say, these are the problems that my team is having, and this is my proposal for fixing it, and this is what we need to do to make it happen. They're going to be met with a lot of defensiveness because you have no idea what that, what the implications are for those changes for the other team.
So to be able to have a sit down conversation and understand, okay, what do you need from us to make things better? Understanding that these are our constraints and these are our limitations. How can we find a middle ground? So again, making it about how we can make the other person's life easier, and not just yourself or your team.
So I would suggest, first of all, those pre conversations are a good one, and then not just making it about you and your team, but what's in it for them, because they're going to get a lot more... they're going to be a lot more interested and much more willing to play play fair if you're going to meet them halfway.
Russel Lolacher: I'd also, and I'm going to flash my communications brain here a bit, make it short. Do not go in there and go, I have 2,700 PowerPoint slides to try to get you to go to buy-in for this. Get in, get out once you hear yes, Move out.
Carly Basian: Yes.
Russel Lolacher: Stop talking after yes.
Carly Basian: Absolutely. And a very simple framework you can use as you sit down and you say, okay, current state, what's working, what's not working. Let's focus on one or two things about what's not working. What would it look like if it was working and what would it take to get there? High level three or five things, and you just keep it very short and you focus on the vision don't worry so much about the step by step, what needs to happen, who needs to be involved that preliminary conversation. It's current state future state. And what's the gap that's preventing us from getting made to be?
Russel Lolacher: What are your thoughts on fear tactics? Cause I know there are ways of doing that for buy-in. We're like, if we don't do this, we're going to be out of business in three weeks. That's not necessarily true, but it is the absolute worst case scenario as a mechanism to try to go, oh, now I care.
Carly Basian: Personally, I'm not into the fear tactics unless it's really supported by data. When I hear someone say, if we don't do this, it's going to be disastrous and X, Y, Z reasons. Great. Show me the data. What data have you been collecting to support this? What are the projections? What are the trajectories?
And then we can have a conversation. But if you're going to come to me with these like very aggressive and very dramatic for lack of a better word approach, I'm going to call you out on it because oftentimes it's coming from a place of what that person needs and not thinking about the other person.
Russel Lolacher: So you're in the room and I've been in this room, where I'm talking to executive. I maybe am using the wrong word, that means something different to me, that means different to the person I'm trying to convince. Or I'm going in a different direction. So it's not working. I know it's not working. They know it's not working.
Do you have that opportunity to pivot in the room? Or is there another way of approaching that situation?
Carly Basian: So, so what do you mean by wrong? We're just like misunderstanding or...
Russel Lolacher: I think, so here's an example. So I used, I was in a setting and I said a recommendation. Here are my three recommendations. In my sense, recommendation is based on what I did and my research I did, these are the three things you should consider as executive. In their mind, I'm literally telling them to do these three things because recommendation for them to them was we have to do this or something bad will happen or we'll be behind the times or whatever.
Well, I'm thinking it's a lot more of a nudge. They're thinking it's a lot more aggressive of a statement based on just the word recommendation. So I'm like okay, so I needed to not use that word. Either softer language. It was, a thesaurus exercise, but still in that room, I knew I had lost them.
Carly Basian: Right.
Russel Lolacher: I only realized I'd used the wrong word 15 minutes till after I walked out of the room.
Carly Basian: Right. So it depends if you're catching that in the moment or afterwards. So I actually had a very similar experience just a couple weeks ago. I've been supporting a team that went through a major reorg and they are now taking a look at the current structure and identifying what roles do they still need? What roles can we eventually phase out through attrition, retirements? And so I had come forward proposing a recommendation, as you just said. But the manager that I was proposing this to, like your example, took it as a directive and got very defensive and very angry. So in the moment, I defused the situation and called it out and said, you know what?
I'm seeing the reaction you're having and I just want to clarify that what I am proposing is a recommendation. I'm not saying that this is the way it needs to happen. This is the way it's going to happen. This was the idea. I wanted to float by, you. It's your team. So at the end of the day you get to make the final call.
But what questions do you have for me and what follow up items can we take from here so we can keep the conversation going? So luckily I was able to catch it in the moment, but I still sent a follow up. And if you don't catch it in the moment, I obviously suggest sending a follow up email. At least right, right away to nip it in the bud, because if you let it fester, people will ruminate and it will end up being a much bigger deal than it needs to be.
So I think it's worthwhile sending a follow up email or scheduling a follow up call for the next day to say this is my experience of how this just went, please confirm whether or not my assumptions are correct. Did you take my recommendations as ironclad and that this is the way it needs to be?
I want you to understand that this was just a recommendation. I'm completely open to brainstorming with you to see if there are other potential solutions. Let's have a full conversation about that. So yes, do not let it fester. Do not just let it lie. It obviously was not well received. You do want to call it out because again, it's going back to the relationship building and the trust building.
If someone is finding you off putting the way that you deliver information, then you absolutely need to call it out. And that's something that I struggle with because I am so passionate and I am so enthusiastic. And I think a lot of times people see it as being a little bit much. So it's important for me to check myself and make sure that I'm reeling it in a little bit.
Because if I'm losing my audience, then you're not going to get that buy-in. You need to be able to tailor your approach depending on who you're working with as well. So going to your communication, communications background, right? Like you need to identify, does this person work well asynchronously? Does this person work well synchronously? Does that look like a video call in person meeting? Do people work well on like a platform like Google... google Drive and working collaboratively on a document? Or does this person want me to do all the legwork and they just give the final stamp of approval?
So it's a matter of asking people outright what do you need from me? How do you work best with other people? Because you want to make sure that you're going to be supporting them and their needs and not just operating the way that you're used to operating.
Russel Lolacher: Well, see that flagged something for me. I'm, the same as you. I'm extremely passionate. I big, I... I'm not dramatic, but at the same point I can, get close to that. I can get close in the way that I'm passionate about something, but here's where this worries me about how cultures are talking these days.
Diversity. Inclusion. So you're talking about buy-in by changing how you are... your default, how you act, and this could include other cultures from other countries that have a much more flamboyant, bigger personality. So they have to minimize themselves. They have to change who they are to get buy-in from others. But yet we talk about diversity and inclusion as something that we have to be our full selves at work. So how do you wrestle with that?
Carly Basian: That's a really great question and it really depends on what you value and who you are as a person. So for for me, for example, looking at my core, I am the sort of person that I am unwilling to sacrifice or change my values. So if someone is asking me to do something that is inherently against my values, I will stand up for that because I truly believe in that.
But if someone gets intimidated by my enthusiasm, if someone gets intimidated by my energy level, I am very good at slowing down at lowering my tone at being a little bit more soft. So again, it's a matter of self reflecting on what matters to you and not compromising on the non negotiables for yourself. It's interesting from an EDI perspective too, right?
Because I think we need to really be intentional about when it comes to getting buy-in, who are we dealing with? Who's in the room? Making sure that voices that don't normally show up are showing up and creating space for that. So an example that I'm thinking of, I was working with the team once that we were really trying to build a culture of full participation.
So again, this was a team that. Did not ask for their manager previously did not ask for their opinion. They were not part of decisions and we really wanted to build a culture where everyone had a stake in decision making. And I noticed I had one employee who every time we had a team meeting, she would never participate. And I would call on her directly and say, so, and so would you like to share your thoughts on this initiative or, on this project, on this process and nothing? So she ended up pulling me aside one day and said Carly, I just wanted to explain to you like in my culture It's considered very disrespectful if I speak up against what my manager is proposing so I don't mean to not be a team player, but it's very uncomfortable for me to participate.
So I asked her is this something that you would like to work on? Would you like me to continue to challenge you? Because I'm hoping that you see that I am trying to create a brave space here and I want you to feel safe enough to be able to share your thoughts. And it was something that she was interested in working on.
So we did lots of coaching and through my one on ones, we would role play and, I'd give her prompts and I, and she would give me cues if she was interested in sharing her thoughts in a, team meeting or not. So with that employee, for example, she was willing to work on it. But if you are working with someone who is not interested in that, you need to know how much to push, but also one not to go over and draw in across the line there.
So again, it's a matter of having honest conversations and transparent conversations to make sure that you're nudging the right people in the right direction.
Russel Lolacher: Have you ever seen a situation where somebody thought they had buy-in, but they didn't?
Carly Basian: Yes, currently helping a senior executive with that right now. Yeah. And I think her biggest disconnect, unfortunately, her head and her heart are very separate. She's incredibly smart. She's incredibly strategic. She has a very clear sense of what needs to change and how it needs to change. But when it comes to change management, it's all about the heart.
It's all about human connection. It's about relationships. We're dealing with people here who have been working in jobs for decades, who have been managing processes that haven't changed in decades. And when you're coming in to say, we're automating this process, or we're getting rid of this process, or we're looping in these two new people to help support you.
People become very personally attached to their work and defensive and are very unwilling to let people in. So when you were coming in just thinking about the business operations and not considering the human impact on those changes, you have major problems. So currently dealing with that right now where there's this major disconnect between the strategy and the human component.
Russel Lolacher: How do you convince... Or at least get people to understand that this is a long game? Because buy-in is, as you were saying, right off the top, it took four years for this particular team to be this beacon of people to come to and stuff, but four years!
Carly Basian: Yes.
Russel Lolacher: A lot of people leave in four years and come back in four years on the team, in executive.
Carly Basian: Yes.
Russel Lolacher: So, how do you handle the long game?
Carly Basian: One of my earliest and most important lessons as a manager is if you make changes too quickly, it's going to blow up in your face. You don't have enough experience. You don't have enough contacts to be able to implement changes. Effectively, when it comes to getting buy-in and when I think of buy-in, I think a lot about change management.
I think a lot about process improvement. So that's the context that I'm bringing here. I always say to people leaders, give yourself at least 6 months to a year to just observe, get to know your team, get to know the dynamics, get to know the history, get to know how people work, who works well together, who doesn't work well together, and really just be an internal spy, be the fly on the wall, let people run the show.
And obviously, step in when you need to and make sure that people are on track, but don't be so worried about creating all these changes off the bat because you might be solving the wrong problems. It is a long term investment, so when you give yourself permission, 6 months to a year, it's okay if I don't make any groundbreaking changes.
It's okay if I don't implement all these new policies. It's okay if my team doesn't do a full 180 flip in terms of how we operate. And knowing that investing the time and getting to know the team, getting to know the work. Your, results will be far, more impactful down the road rather than coming in and making changes.
And we've seen this, right? We have seen leaders come in who within 3 months complete reorg. Changes people's responsibilities without understanding who has what skills. People become disgruntled, you lose engagement, you lose trust, and it is so much harder to gain trust once you've ruined that relationship rather than starting on a neutral level and seeing a really fast, positive trajectory in terms of working together as a team collaboratively when you go slow. Slow and steady wins the race.
Russel Lolacher: So how do you keep that buy-in? Is it a matter of just checking in with the relationships you're establishing over time? Is it like, what is the, it's a long game, but you do that first pitch and then do you just put it in a calendar and say, Hey, every three months I need to send you an email going, do you still love me?
Carly Basian: Yeah, it depends. When it's team based, for example, so I have worked on teams where we worked very closely with other units that again, I had no authority over, but I needed them for my team to be successful. We would have monthly team builders. So we would bring the whole team managers, directors, individual contributors all together to just do.
Fun activities. So that's one way of establishing those connections. It's also a matter of having check ins. Usually I would do bi-weekly with the management group just to see how are things going? What are you hearing from your team? Because you don't want to assume that things are still going well.
Things change all the time. People come and go. Projects come and go processes change. So having just a reoccurring biweekly check in with the same sorts of questions what's working, what's not working a great framework. I like to use as well as a stop start continue. So what's the, what's something that we need to stop something that we want to start doing that we're not in something that's going well, we want to continue.
That's another strategy that you can use. With projects in particular, I take a little bit of a different approach. So similar sorts of reoccurring meetings, team builders, but I also am a big fan of pre mortems and post mortems. So pre mortems are getting all the stakeholders in the same room and brainstorming what could go wrong.
If we're starting this project, what are the potential roadblocks and how can we overcome them? So we're preparing ourselves for when you, work through problems together, it's a great way of establishing connections. So that's a great way to build that trust, especially if you're maybe working with a new team or with new individuals you haven't worked with before.
And then post mortems, taking a look back, looking at the project, looking at the process, what worked, what didn't work for the things that didn't work. If we're going to be working on similar work in the future, what can we do to prepare ourselves and set us up, for success down the road.
So those are also great strategies that you can use, but yes you cannot assume that things are still going smoothly, having check ins, having team builders, pre mortems, post mortems, absolutely essential.
Russel Lolacher: But it also helps if you're the right person to try to get buy-in because I've been in rooms where a presenter and I'm like, Oh, you were not the person to be talking about this. You are either a horrible presenter or you talk to technical or you don't get the emotion of what you're trying to sell.
Like they are just... they could be the most brilliant person in the room, but they are the worst person to get buy-in from.
Carly Basian: Yes.
Russel Lolacher: So how do you know you're that person and what, maybe what are a few things you need to do to go I need to do this assessment before I realize I am?
Carly Basian: Yeah, communication is huge, right? And you're the expert in that. So for sure. When you're going to pitch an idea to someone, let's say you're creating a slide deck or you want to have a call with someone, it's great to have one or two people in your network that you know will give you good, honest advice.
Ideally, someone, if you're working for a large organization, someone who's not on your team, but knows the players that you're working with. So they have that digital Thanks. That additional context, if you don't have the luxury of working for a large organization like I do at the moment if you have anyone in your network, professional friends, family who can offer some insight, go through your presentation, do a mock presentation and give them some context about who you're pitching this to, so they can poke some holes.
Another great technique is ChatGPT, integrating AI. I'm such a huge fan of this. I just discovered, you can do mock interviews on chat GPT and you can give prompts like I'm going to be interviewing with someone who really prioritizes independence and likes enthusiastic presenters and yada yada, and they will give you feedback on the way that you're delivering that, that content.
So that's another great way of doing that. In terms of the communication piece some, quick tips and some quick ones, people tend to use big fancy language when they want to sound smart. You're going to lose your audience. I think the, saying goes something like when you're writing for for a general audience, like at the grade four level, you don't need to have these big fancy terms.
You just want to be direct to the point, use simple language because yes, you will. lose your audience. Otherwise another strategy that you can do to see whether or not you need some some help with your presentation skills and communication skills. Let's record yourself. Whenever I'm doing a really large presentation, really big workshop, I do a mock one on my computer.
I record myself and I watch it. It's painful. It is so painful. We are our own worst critics and it's a great way of identifying, am I saying too much, am I pausing too much, am I doing too much with my hands, am I speaking too quickly, am I speaking too slowly? So record yourself and go through it.
Russel Lolacher: How many people will show up at a presentation they saw the PowerPoint five minutes beforehand. And then they read back the presentation, back to the room. As opposed to the best presentations I've ever done. I was walking my apartment, my house, wherever I was doing tests, having my partner sit in the room and go that sucked, that didn't. Or it's just that energy for me to understand how to, how this might sound coming out of my mouth versus what it looks like on the page. Where's the jokes? How to temper it, the cadence of it. And I'm so amazed at how many people do not take that time to invest in the prep before the presentation and then wonder why it didn't go well.
Carly Basian: It shows, right? When you don't take the time, doesn't matter how experienced you are, if you're not spending at least an hour at some point before. Even if you're repeating the same presentation, I've done lots of presentations that I've recycled over and over again, but I always go through it because again you need to tailor it to your audience.
Not every audience is going to be the same. You can't take that for granted. And if you want to have influence and you're trying to persuade people to listen to you and buy into your vision, if you're not confident, if you don't have all the right details, if you're stumbling over your words, if your tech is not set up properly, it's a very easy way to lose your audience.
Russel Lolacher: Funny story. I was doing a presentation to a large room of communications experts, and these were people that were investing in social media as a way of engaging with their audiences and so forth. And the biggest complaint I heard from this, I'd say there was about 600 people about communications experts going, I'm so frustrated because there's no buy-in from the top about what I'm trying to do. What do I do? How do I engage them? I'm like, you're literally communications experts. All those strategies you do for the public, for your customers, replace them with executive and do the exact same damn thing. You literally have the skillset, but you're looking at it so differently.
You're literally siloing yourself and going, woes me. So how do you motivate people that are in that woes me attitude going, you know what you need to take these steps?
Carly Basian: How to motivate people. It's easy. Yeah, I mean, I think it's hard if you have been trying for a long time to get an idea through to get an idea across. If it's constantly being shut down, it's really easy to lose sight and lose momentum. But that's a good indicator to you that your approach is not working.
So what's the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. So if you are keep, you keep approaching your boss with this idea and they keep turning it down, then you need to ask them what, why? Ask the, why. Because sometimes you come in with a very strong idea, very good idea to you, but there's additional context that you're missing, especially those who are going to their manager, or managing up as I like to call it, to offer suggestions.
A lot of times managers, unfortunately, don't have the liberty to share everything happening behind the scenes. And maybe it's not aligned with the strategic direction the organization is going in. Maybe there are other projects or other priorities. That's another good learning that I learned early on in my career as a manager.
Lots of ideas about how I can make my team better and how it can fit into the larger organization. So I would often go to my boss with a lot of ideas and a lot of suggestions because it felt urgent to us. It felt urgent to my team. It felt urgent to our needs. And my boss would very politely say, I understand it's a priority for you, but you have to understand as your boss, it is not a priority for the organization. And here's why. So sometimes just getting the answer why it allows you to be at peace with why you're not... why your ideas are not being put forward. But then there's also the flip side of that, where your ideas are excellent and actually would benefit the organization and it is aligned. And if your manager keeps shooting you down and saying, Nope, I don't like that idea.
Ego. It's a big thing, right? A lot of people have ego, and if it's not their idea, they're not going to go through with it. So what I like to do through my consulting is, I don't have the ego, so if I can find a way to to, change my idea and morph it so that they think it's their idea. So, planting the seeds so that they eventually... come to the same conclusion that you have. It's a little bit manipulative. It is incredibly effective.
Russel Lolacher: Very manipulative, but it works.
Carly Basian: Yes, but it is incredibly effective about, okay, instead of me saying to Hey, Russel, I really want to implement this new process, it's going to benefit us. Here are the reasons X, Y, Z. Instead I say Russel this process, what about it doesn't work? What makes it challenging for you? How could this process change to make your life easier? And oftentimes you're going to be on the same page. And then when they think it's their ideas, wow, Russel, what a great idea. How about I run with this and I'll put a draft together for you. Take a look at it and let me know if you want me to move forward with it.
Makes your life easier. You're winning because your ideas are being executed. So who cares if, someone else gets the credit? At the end of the day, if you really care about your organization, you care about your team, you're just going to do it. It doesn't matter who said it. You're just going to do it.
Russel Lolacher: Is there a point where you give up? Like where it's just you know what, buy-ins just never going to happen get off this crazy train.
Carly Basian: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Some, cost fallacies is very real. A lot of times we invest so much time, so much energy into something and because we invested so much time and energy, we don't want to give it up, but you're just doing more damage by trying to drill it in over and over again.
You're going to damage relationships. It's not worth your time. I just went through this recently. I was supporting a manager and I went in with the intent of helping with process automation, documentation, knowledge transfer, looking at their org chart to figure out how can we make some changes.
And we kept having reoccurring meetings, me, him, and his director. My director had a conversation to explain what my role was, what my responsibilities were going to be. It was very clear. This manager had vocalized that they do need help with these things, but for whatever reason, anytime we would meet, we'd come up with a plan together. It was very collaborative. He had lots of great ideas. I would just create structure for him. So give deadline dates, assign people to different tasks, delegation. And every week we'd meet and I'd say, great from our last meeting, what's been accomplished? Here are the seven tasks that were supposed to happen.
And nothing was getting done. And eventually I started to see him pull back a bit, not as participative in our conversations. I could tell by his body language over video calls, he was very closed off, not paying attention. And I just asked him point blank, I'm getting the sense that you feel like I'm stepping on your toes. Is that assumption right or wrong? And he said, yes, I don't quite understand what value you're offering because I can do this on my own without your help. At the end of the day, if someone is unwilling to take my help, I am here as a resource to you. I can't force you. We tried, I tried getting to know him on a personal level. We met in person. We met virtually. We tried asynchronous. We tried synchronous. I really used every single tool in my toolbox to try to help him. And when he said, I don't think you can help me. And there's nothing I can do about that. So I've been working with him for months. and at this point, if nothing's going to change, I need to know when to step back. So at that point I said, okay, let's take a break. We can always revisit if you change your mind to know where to find me. But you can bring the horse to water, can't make them drink, right?
Russel Lolacher: But I think that's your key in mentioning, it's that disassociation and the ego thing right? Is it you didn't fail. Its circumstances. It's fine. It happens. And a lot of people, as we've talked about, are very passionate about their ideas. Very much want to... Everybody wants to be a winner. Nobody wants to feel like they're a loser.
Carly Basian: Yes.
Russel Lolacher: So they may push a little too hard or a little too long when they can be focusing their efforts into other avenues or other teams.
Carly Basian: Exactly. But you don't want, you don't want to give up too prematurely either, right? I'm the sort of person, I know this about myself, if I don't succeed at something right away, I get defeated really easily. I'm very hard on myself. If you're that kind of person or you're the kind of person that likes to see immediate results, instant gratification, you have to be aware of that because it is possible on the flip side that you give up too early.
When it comes to getting buy-in, especially with teams that you haven't worked with before, you have a new boss, you have a new team, you're in a new organization, you do need to give it time. Again, like I said, six months to a year. And again, contextual whether or not it's your team, if it's project based, so on and so forth.
But if you're expecting A senior executive who never takes a call with you to immediately think that you're genius and listen to everything you say after one or two quick 10 minute check ins. No it's not going to happen that way. You do need to invest the time and the energy, but if it's been months, years, you're still working on the same thing.
You're not making progress. You take two steps forward and five steps back. You need to pause and ask yourself, is this the best use of my time? Can I use my energy elsewhere?
Russel Lolacher: Thank you so much, Carly. I'm going to ask the last question, which is what's one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?
Carly Basian: Gratitude. The practice of gratitude. I've been very intentional about using this in my personal life and professional life lately. I think the world just feels like it's constantly imploding. Professionally, lots of organizations are seeing major budget cuts. Looming recession. There's lots of fear. There's lots of uncertainty. There's lots of anxiety. At the end of the day, my husband and I have this gratitude practice where right before bed, we say three things that we're grateful for and one thing that we learned at work. And tying it specifically to work and thinking about what's something that expanded my brain today or did I help someone? What's something that I'm grateful for? It just really puts things into perspective and just focusing on the negative helps clear all the clutter.
Russel Lolacher: That's Carly Basian. She is the Continuous Improvement manager for Toronto Metropolitan University's Office of the Registrar. She's a change influencer and consultant and all the good things to help you get buy-in. And thank you so much, Carly.
Carly Basian: Thank you so much, Russel.