Winning Team Buy-In

"Brad, I can't seem to get my workers to 'buy-in' to what we're doing as a company."

I have heard some version of this statement from owners and field leaders for years. While there are a number of strategies you might employ to "win over" your employees to a more team approach, let's first identify a few critical reasons why there is resistance to "buy-in."

Reasons for Resistance to Team Buy-in

No. 1 Too Much Head Buffalo
If there is a senior leader who is too controlling, making every decision, planning every project, there is little incentive for those in the "herd." While not every worker is lazy, a good majority of employees want to participate somewhere, somehow.

No. 2 There's Nothing to Buy-in To
This is a classic case of an owner simply not having anything of tangible means to reward or recognize their workers. From minority ownership to some bonus program, if the worker has nothing to look forward to receiving there may be little reason for them to buy-in to an owner's efforts to motivate better performance.

No. 3 Little to No Team Chemistry
Even professional sports teams fight this. Consider how many millionaires make up some teams, yet the coaches for those teams often get fired because they couldn't get the players to work together. Chemistry is huge! You don't need five, ten, fifteen superstars; rather, you need a few "thoroughbreds" and a lot of role players to fit around them.

Moving toward Team Buy-In
There are no secrets but there are a few things that my organization has assisted companies to promote with some great results. Consider a few of the following techniques.

A. Set out Clear Roles & Responsibilities
Every worker wants to know what they are specifically responsible for and what roles they need to fulfill. The worker may argue about what they have to do but they'll be even more cantankerous if they have no clue as to what they are supposed to be doing.

B. Set Team Goals & Incentives
You can continue to give individual bonuses to your people but consider creating some goals that takes everyone working together to reach...and then pay them for reaching the goals. What is so difficult about that? Absolutely nothing!

C. Speak to Your Work Crews a Team
It is made doubly hard to get "buy-in" when you never speak to your employees together. Remember, a team wins and loses together. No matter if the meeting is about negative issues or positive, bringing the troops together, regularly to update them on production, profitability, costs, etc. subtly moves each individual to recognize that they are in fact part of a team and no more... "It's all about me."

D. Implement the Star Concept
Consider the points of a star representing some specific area of the crews that need additional attention. Preventive maintenance, safety, quality, truck/equipment readiness, are all examples of additional roles that are assigned to one or two individuals. In essence, every crew member will have one additional role that very clearly supports the overall performance of the team.

Aside from the incentive creation, this technique has had perhaps the most success with contractors we've worked with through the years. Each point on the star takes on the job title, such as Safety Specialist or PM Coordinator. The individual works on behalf of their crew to spend a little extra time adding some attention to their specific area of focus. So, a Safety Coordinator might spend a bit of time each day walking and noting work areas that need improved safety protection or sees to it that every worker has their needed hard hat, gloves, etc. This effort does not create multiple mini-bosses but rather a more unified team of workers who realize that they are mutually responsible for the crews safety, performance, etc.

E. Owner Needs to be Available
If you want to destroy any momentum or hope for better days then have the senior leader or owner just not be around. Whether we like it or not, our industry is full of workers who want to identify with their owner. If the owner demonstrates a lack of interest in spending time with their workers then the worker has little motivation to "buy-in" to anything that the owner may be trying to sell. Of all the techniques shared thus far this technique is the most difficult to have owners embrace. Growing companies require an owner spend more work time "on the business" rather than working in the business. However, that said, the owner must not short change their workers from the time that is needed to reassure workers that the owner is still there, engaged, and cares very much about the welfare of the worker and his or her family.

Any one of the techniques presented can help turn your organization around. Getting your workers to buy-in to teamwork and what the company actually needs to be more successful requires more from the owner and senior leaders. One of the first things that leave even the best (but fast growing) construction business is the reduced amount of time that an owner begins to spend with his or her workers. There are no magic pills to overcome this illness but it must be addressed clearly.

Moving your company's workers toward greater buy-in will challenge the leadership team to think less in terms of individual accomplishments and to promote and drive greater teamwork. Your motivational effort, coaching, and yes, even your pay, should be clearly reflective of driving a more team based approach.

For more information about building "buy-in" within your company please free to contact Brad Humphrey at His organization has many resources available including down loadable CDs. Also, inquire about having one of Brad's team of consultants visit your organization.