Have you ever thought about the difference between alignment and buy-in?
The distinction’s not always clearly made, but it’s an important one.
If I’m aligned to something you’re proposing, it means I feel like the idea has enough merit to be a sensible thing to pursue.
It doesn’t mean I’m completely sold on the idea.
If I’m aligned, I support you moving forward with the idea.
I’m not necessarily ready to personally jump in with both feet (or bring anyone else along with me).
If I’m aligned, I expect some amount of new information to come into the picture that will help either solidify my commitment or show that it didn’t have quite as much merit as I (or you) originally thought.
Once I’m bought in, the burden of convincing me is gone. You have my support to the extent that I’m bought in.
The ability to bring someone (or lots of someones) along from alignment to buy-in is essential for effective leadership and influence.
Buy-in is the only true catalyst.
Every other form of motivation loses its luster and appeal over time.
When the work gets tough, the folks who were aligned to your idea scatter, backtrack, or abandon it altogether.
There’s not enough reason to stick with it.
When people are bought in, friction, challenges, and opposition become fuel thrown onto the fire.
This is why clarity matters.
It’s almost impossible to be bought into something you don’t understand.
In fact, you can only be bought into something to the degree you understand it.
That means, if you’re trying to lead a group of people, the more unambiguous you can make the goal, the easier the move from alignment to buy-in becomes.
It still has to be a good goal.
It still needs to be compelling.
But you could have the best, most compelling goal in the world, and if you can’t boil it down to something people really grasp and latch onto, you’ll get alignment at best, and chaos and confusion at worst.
Lastly, if you’re not completely bought in, good luck getting anyone else to buy in.
No one wants to follow someone who has an idea that might sort of work, have an impact, or otherwise be worth doing.
The foundation needed for impact and influence is a strong and compelling vision, based in reality, clearly (and consistently) communicated.
If any of those elements are missing, you’ll have a group of people with one foot in, looking for a reason to take it out.