13 strategies for buy in title image

Photo Credit by Highway Agency

[alert style=”green”]This the final post in a 3 part series on the art of buy-in. Post 1 explained why some people almost always get their ideas shot down. Post 2 was a story about how I overcame the naysayers and got buy-in for my team dues idea . Post 3 outlines 13 specific strategies you can use to get your great ideas implemented.[/alert]

——- 7 strategies I used in my effort to get a team dues implemented —–

1) Build a base of supporters

For a good idea to be adopted by a group, it’s not enough for most people to be on board – you need a few very vocal supporters to champion your idea. As captain, I had some positional authority, but I knew it would be important to enlist the support of former captains and friendly teammates before the presentation even happened. Taking the time to have one on one conversations to sell your idea to people you trust within the group is time consuming but vital to ensuring your pitch to the full group is successful.

2) Prepare to address objections

This seems obvious, but people generally don’t prep enough for objections. If you just dismiss people’s viewpoints, they don’t feel respected and will be more likely to fight your proposal. In this case, I knew there were at least three objections I had to address and I took time to appropriately address each one.

  • We don’t spend that much money as a team – I built out a very detailed spreadsheet with our team’s expenses which meant it was harder to challenge the amount I was requesting
  • I don’t have money on me – More of a timing thing, I waited until the guys had received their per diem
  • I don’t want to overpay – I promised my teammates we would stick to the budget and if that if there was money leftover it would be returned to them

3) Neutralize nay sayers

Even after addressing objections in a way that will please most people, there are often still nay sayers who just refuse to change, don’t want to do anything or perhaps dislike you personally. Making sure that Eric and Luke wouldn’t shut down my idea in front of the group was a key strategy for getting team dues through. Depending on your situation, there are a couple tactics you can take to neutralize naysayers:

  • Try to win them over in a one on one – Sometimes nay sayers just want attention.  Other times, they have a genuine concern or misunderstanding.  When you meet in person, you can create a safe environment to speak honestly, identify the underlying issue, and figure out what to do — without the pressure of egos or an audience.
  • Have someone they trust/respect win them over – you might have the right message for the naysayer but perhaps they need a different messenger. If you can convince someone they trust to make the case for idea (see building base of supporters) they might be able to get through when you couldn’t.
  • Use peer pressure to force them in line – if you have enough support, you can make them look like the bad guys – the ones holding everyone back from pursuing this great idea and thus pressure them into going with your proposal. This isn’t always easy to do and it could backfire.  Plus, I had a feeling Eric and Luke would just dig their heels in.
  • Cut them a deal – I used this technique when I offered to let Eric and Luke pay individually.  This can be a risky move, because if people find out about the special treatment, they may doubt my integrity and overall motives.  Why do some people get a deal but others don’t? Do you have to suck up to Jason or make a ruckus to be exempt from rules in the future?  In this case, it was worth taking a chance because I felt like most people would understand.
  • Strong arm them into agreeing – this is typically a last resort move – threatening to make their life miserable or eject them from the group (if you have that authority) are blunt objects that can work but will definitely cause some collateral damage and are best avoided.

4) Show them you have their best interests in mind

People need to know that you care about them and aren’t proposing an idea that really only benefits you. The best way to do this is to have a track record of generous contributions to the group (and to remind them of this track record).

In my case, I mention talking to Susan, who was an administrator in the athletic department and tried to get our team more money (by increasing the number of days of per diem we got from 4 to 6 or 7, which is what we usually got). I wasn’t successful but I mentioned it as a reminder of “Hey, remember, I’m out there busting my butt so we can get more money. Keep that in mind when you think about this.”

Find a way to show people you care about them and want what’s best for them – it will help them trust you when you suggest something new. Continue reading

[alert style=”green”] This is a 3 part series on the art of buy-in. In my last post, I talked about how smart people often get great ideas shot down. In this post I share a story of how I overcame the naysayers and got buy-in for team dues.[/alert]

I would venture there are few groups harder to organize than a bunch of cocky college athletes. Gymnasts especially, since we all spend the first 10+ years of training by ourselves, without much of  “team” mentality. That’s why I want to share this story of how I won over my gymnastics team and got everyone to pay team dues.

Our team’s money problem

Photo credit: JMR Photography

September 2008: fall training for the Stanford Men’s Gymnastics team was about to start.

I was meeting with the other team captains to plan for the upcoming year. We had discussed attitude in the gym, our focus during training competitions, etc. While most of the conversation was on how we were going to win the national championship, there was one logistical item on the table: team dues.

As a team, we had become close over the years – organizing annual gifts for coaches and graduating seniors, printed handbooks for freshmen, a camping retreat in the fall and a team banquet in the spring. Usually the captains or other seniors would front the money (around $1,000 total for the year) for these sorts of activities and then try to collect afterward.

Collecting money, a few dollars at a time, from 15+ guys who are usually close to broke, sucks. No one has the exact amount on them, you forget to ask, it’s hard to keep track of who paid and who hasn’t and generally speaking, this is a big hassle. Inevitably the person who fronted the money gets screwed.

The dismal history behind team dues

Now the previous year we had a captain named Dylan. This guy was brilliant – earning above a 4.0 GPA as a Stanford premed – but his ideas for the team often didn’t go anywhere, much to his frustration.

He had tried to push through the idea of team dues – where people would pay an advance to the captains which would be spent on the various team sponsored-activities. It’s a win for everyone – team members would stop getting hassled all the time, and captains would have the necessary funds to do their job.

It died. People said it wasn’t necessary, too much work, and that the current system was just fine and the conversation just fizzled. [1]

Despite this failure, I felt that team dues was still a really good idea – and I knew that once implemented, it’d become institutionalized as a part of the culture and thus worth giving another shot. My co-captains agreed hesitantly – as long as I did all the work, they would support the idea. Continue reading

Falling off the face of the earth

Photo credit: another point in time

[alert style=”green”]This is part 1 of a three part series on the Art of Buy-In. Part 2 is about my first experience in using these strategies to get a good idea implemented. Part 3 explains the specific tactics I used (and would use in the future) for getting buy-in plus further resources to check out.[/alert]

Too often, the best ideas get shot down.

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: a group that you’re a part of has a thorny problem and no one seems to have come up with a workable solution.

You rack your brains and realize that there’s an answer that will fix the problem in an effective and responsible manner. You make a proposal, explain your idea and expect everyone to get on board. But for whatever reason, the group rejects your idea and either does nothing, or implements a worse solution.

I’ve definitely been there – and it sucks!

For smart, good-intentioned people, seeing one of their ideas get killed – often for no good reason – can be one of the most frustrating things in the world. But what can we do?

Well, here are some options:

  • blame the group for being dumb
  • dismiss the decision as a political game / popularity contest
  • avoid proposing ideas in the future
  • withdraw from the group because you are frustrated

But do you really want to do those things? If you care about growing as an individual and genuinely care about the group you are a part of and your ability to make a positive impact on these people’s lives – you must recognize that none of these options are ideal.

What you really want is the ability to get people to understand and implement your good ideas – helping everyone win.

I’m sure you’ve run into at least one person in your life, maybe a mentor, a coworker or fellow student or just a friend, who people seem to listen to and who actually is able to get the group to go along with their good ideas. How do they do it? Hint: it’s not because they’re smarter, better looking or more popular than you.

It’s because they’ve mastered the art of buy-in.

There happen to be a number of strategies that are highly effective in getting a group on board with new idea. The fact is, people are not robots – there are social and psychological dynamics to getting a group to agree to do something.

For instance – often times a person might personally agree with an idea but is worried that others disagree and don’t want to make waves. If everyone thinks this way, your idea never gets off the ground, even if everyone in the group agrees with it. How frustrating!

The good news is – you can learn these strategies.

I once dealt with a thorny issue where I got buy-in for an idea that had been previously proposed (and shot down) by a leader in the group by using what I’ve learned about getting buy-in. I’ll be writing up this story very soon.

Email subscribers will get this post in their inbox as soon as I hit “publish” – if you want to join them, click here to join hundreds of smart readers who want to make things happen. I’ll also send you a free copy of Guide to YC (the indispensable 92-pg book for founders applying to Y Combinator) and some other great goodies.

Sign up for the Art of Ass-Kicking newsletter.

step by step (meditation)

photo credit: AlicePopkorn

Last week I posted on my new challenge for the month of April: logging 900 minutes of meditation. I thought I’d share my progress so far and also highlight a few of the great pieces of advice I received from readers.


230/900 (7 days * 30 + 20 mins this morning)


Doing 20 minutes in the morning and 10 before bed has worked pretty well so far. I try to get out of bed immediately upon waking and sit. Correct meditation posture involves keeping your back straight, which is great for keeping you awake when you might be a little sleepy

The Simply Being App

I am definitely enjoying the Simply Being app. Even though I think the 10 and 20 minutes of “meditation reminders” is the same every time, the instructors tone, comments and timing are just what I need to stay on track with the meditation.

Getting a Partner

right after I posted about my challenge, my friend and fellow entrepreneur Scott Allison (Teamly) hit me up about partnering for accountability. It turned out he was trying get into meditation as well. We’ve been able to keep each other on track by texting each other once or twice a day to check in.


Probably the biggest challenge I’ve run into is that sitting up straight for 20 minutes gets my back pretty tired. The last 5 minutes of my meditations are often a big of a struggle dealing with the back soreness. Additionally, I often get the seeds of (what I think are) really great ideas during my meditation and it’s tough to brush them away and stay in the moment – it’s something I’ll keep working on.

Reader Advice

In my initial 900 minutes of meditation post I asked readers to send in their best advice on building this habit and got some great responses. You can check out the post for all of them, but here are the highlights:

  • Tie the new habit to triggers: Swizec talked about tying his new habits (writing and working out) to things he already does every day like brushing his teeth and eating breakfast
  • Find a partner – Frank mentioned that he has successfully started a meditation habit and part of what made it work was doing it with his wife
  • Look beyond your current goalsMountain Evan Chang suggested reading a book on meditation which might help me see meditation as something I could do throughout the day, rather than just logging in my time in the morning and evening.

[alert style=”green”]Time management is a topic many seek to understand and master, but it is somewhat of a misnomer. We can’t really manage our time, we can only manage our behavior and what we put our energies and efforts on. Between Microsoft, volunteer work and competitive tennis, our guest poster Lilia Gutnik is a busy woman. Learn her secrets in the guest post below – Jason[/alert]

Photo credit: Ricksflicks

It’s cliche, but I have come to appreciate the adage “Time is the great equalizer – everyone has the same amount.”

I used to beat myself up for not doing as much as the incredible people around me; people who could accomplish so much more than I seem to be able to. I would hear about their accomplishments and instead of being inspired, I would feel overwhelmed.

I talked about this on a 30 mile bike ride commute into work with a buddy of mine a few years ago. We would do this once a week at daybreak, catching the sunrise over the lake. The ride took 2 hours, plus shower and chocolate milk rehydration put me at my desk by 9am. I didn’t feel like I could balance training for a 300 mile bike ride (STP, a 1 or 2 day Seattle to Portland ride) with my tennis team upcoming season.

He said: “Lil, think about everything you are doing right now. List it out.”

So I did. And I felt pretty accomplished, actually. Because when I added everything up, I felt like I wasn’t as far off from those people I was feeling jealous of.

Thought Exercise #1:

When you feel like you’re not doing enough, consciously list out everything that is on your plate.

Then he said: “Now, if you want to ride 300 miles in a day, you’re going to have to train for at least 2 months ahead of time. That means riding every week 3-4 times to and from work, the long way. Plus a long ride every weekend, working up from 50 to 100 miles.”

“But I can’t ride that much and play tennis, I won’t have enough daylight left. And my legs will be worn out”

“That’s right, Lil. You have to choose. You can’t keep adding things to your list. If you want to do this, you definitely can. But you have to drop something else. What would you drop?”

Thought Exercise #2:

Be honest with your time. If you pick up a new activity or are working towards a new goal, evaluate how much time it will really require to do well and think about what existing activities will be affected by it.

And here’s the important part, at least for me. When I choose my activity, I actively stop doing something else. I don’t try to keep a hold on it just a little, just on weekends, just once a month. If I pick something new up, I have to commit to the new thing whole-heartedly or else it won’t really be fulfilling, worth-while, or done well.

So that helps me – it helps me say no to new random hobbies (Trapeze? Glass-blowing?). It helps me feel good about what I am doing (Look at me! I do all this stuff!). And it helps me really take on new activities without feeling like I’m going to fail because I know I’ve made the time for it.

Oh and by the way: I didn’t do the 300 mile ride. Instead I fully committed to my local tennis team season. We ended the season first in the division, won our local championship, and traveled to Portland to compete in the regional championship. So I guess I made it to Portland after all.

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Lilia Gutnik (liliagutnik.com) moved to the Pacific Northwest where she learned how to ride her bike around Lake Washington with the encouragement of her friend Matthew Pearlson. Her commute to work is now to the Bing offices, where she is a technical product manager on the monetization team. In her spare time, she still plays competitive tennis, travels to far-off countries, tells stories, and occasionally gets overwhelmed by the number of things she wants to do but doesn’t have time for.