27 May, 2016

How to create buy in

How to create buy in

Image Credit: Masa Sakano

I have the privilege of working with some brilliant coaches. Coaches who have developed and honed their skills over many years and are delivering great programs.

Many coaches are also always looking for the next edge, being innovative in their practice. But sometimes these coaches are not successful in implementing their new processes – they lack the buy in from their athletes, assistant coaches or parents.

You as a coach, might believe you have the world’s best program to develop athletes. You have spent years tinkering with the program, researching and talking to other experts. Your programs on the surface look great, but they lack what I call ‘mainstream stickability’.

Creating change within sport is much like climbing a mountain. You have a steep challenge in front of you and need everyone going in the same direction. But with one fall or disengaged person the rope goes tight and the likelihood of success is reduced.

Law of Diffusion of Innovation

The law of diffusion of innovation explains how new ideas are adopted and reach a critical mass within society. For products or programs to be truly successful they need to be adopted by the mainstream. Often it is relatively easy to find the first 2.5% of your target population to ‘buy into’ your innovation. The early adopters will be curious and stand on the sidelines initially, do their own research but likely come on board. But then, the success cliff looms.

How to create buy in

Image Credit: Wikipedia

You are either going to fall off the edge of the cliff or scale the next peak and achieve mainstream success. Your ability as a coach to achieve this mainstream success is less about the product you have, but more about your ability to communicate and convince the skeptics. You are asking the mainstream target audience to change the way they currently operate.

Managing Change

Knoster, Villa and Thousand suggest that there are five areas that need to be satisfied in order to achieve successful change. As a coach, we need to satisfy each area to ensure we can achieve mainstream success and increase our programs ‘stickability’ amongst our target audience.

How to create buy in

Image Credit: Sylvia Duckworth

Vision: Great coaches are very good at having a vision in mind. They can see the endpoint of what they are trying to achieve. This vision must be shared clearly with their target audience.

Skills: Whilst the coach has the skills, often those they are working with and want to change lack the skills. Professional development and time is required to reduce the anxiety of change with those you are trying to bring along for the ride.

Incentives: Let’s be honest, the majority of our coaches are volunteers who are already pretty busy. So to ask them to change the way they are currently doing things, there must be an incentive for them to want to change. You need to be able to show empathy towards those that you want to follow you and understand their perspective. What is in it for them? If you can provide positive answers to the below questions, then you will decrease the resistance of change.

  • Will this make my life easier?
  • Will this give me back some time?
  • Will this save me/my club money?

Resources: Sport generally and more so club sport is resource poor. To successfully implement change then it takes a lot of resourcing in terms of volunteer time, effort, and having the right people engaged to manage the process. Not to mention the physical cost of the equipment or software required to deliver the change. Without a clear plan and understanding of the resources required, then the coach who is trying to implement the change will continually come up against blocks and become frustrated.

Action Plan: To create change and achieve mainstream buy in, then a clear action plan is required. This will show the small steps required to achieve long term success and the vision you as a coach have. Without an action plan it becomes difficult to manage expectations. With no action plan you will become distracted and become reactionary. This will result in many false starts.

If you do not address any one of these areas satisfactorily then you will not achieve mainstream success, a change in behaviour will not occur and you will fall off the cliff. Your program or product may still be the best in the world, but due to a lack of attention to what achieves mainstream ‘stickability’ you wont receive the accolades you deserve.

Underpinned by Communication

These areas of change are all underpinned by being able to communicate this clearly and being a leader that is worth following. Too often I have found that a coach has an aggressive style of communication and becomes defensive towards those from the mainstream that critic their program or product.

When this defensive and aggressive communication style is used, then the person on the receiving end perceives they are being backed into a corner and ‘have to do something’. The result is often disengagement with the product or program despite their potential ‘like’ of it. Acceptance and use of the product or program by this person is then likely lost.

The success of your product or program is not about how smart you are or how innovative your idea is, it has much more to do with whether you are worth following and able to create and implement a complete change management plan.

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, then please let me know. Either comment or share in social media or send me an email. I love to hear from those who are passionate about creating change in sport as well.

© 2019 Paul Mead