6 tips for getting buy-in in a decentralised institution

6 tips for getting buy-in in a decentralised institution

Whether you work in an international office, a marketing and recruitment office, or another central administrative division, you are probably familiar with the challenges of getting things done in an inherently decentralised university environment. Getting agendas and opinions in alignment across offices or departments can seem impossible. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, a few simple practices can go a long way in getting buy-in from outside your core team.

1. Provide background for decisions

The way we respond to new assignments as adults is not so different from the way we reacted as children: none of us likes hearing the reason, “Because I said so!” – even if a new duty falls under our existing job description. You’ll often meet less resistance by showing colleagues the facts and statistics that support a decision, providing the input you have received from others, and explaining the expected outcomes. Gain buy-in by helping your colleagues understand why a new project or initiative is worthwhile.

2. Explain how it will benefit them – personally

People are inherently a bit self-centred. Most will first want to know how a new policy or procedure will affect their own workload or goals. Lead into announcements by explaining how the change will positively affect individuals and the institution before your audience has the chance to jump to their own conclusions.

3. Appoint representatives

Five opinions are easier to manage than fifty. If multiple departments, offices, or teams will be affected by a decision, appoint representatives from each group so they can mediate between a decision-making committee and the rest of their group. This way all stakeholders can be represented without stalling the process with too many voices.

4. Ask for suggestions – when possible

When time and efficiency are vital, it may not be possible to gather input from anyone other than the ultimate decision makers. But when a new proposal has some flexibility, take advantage of the opportunity to ask others for input. People are often more willing to support something that they had a hand in developing.

5. Take advantage of opportunities to say “yes”

If you notice that there are some stakeholders who give input that often gets overlooked (or outright rejected!), take every opportunity you can to say “yes”. And when possible, bring attention to these instances by giving approval in person or during a meeting so they get noticed.

6. Develop rapport

Meet with people in person, video conference with them on Skype, or talk by phone instead of email whenever possible. Use humour. Share a meal. By developing relationships with colleagues in various offices across the institution, you will gain greater mutual understanding and a stronger sense of collaborating towards a common goal. In the end, both you and your co-workers in other offices will be much more likely to support one another.

By Laura Montgomery, EAIE Trainer and Senior Consultant at The Brenn-White Group