A term that is often used in organizations is “buy in.” In this blog it does not mean an action on a stock purchase. Rather, in the context of this blog it is meant to denote people’s commitment or support to a new idea, initiative, or program the organization has determined as important to make improvements. The more “buy in” the better, for it means there is support for an idea to move from the “drawing board” to be put into action.
I have never liked the term “buy in.” If I am “buying in” to an idea or plan, it must mean that someone is selling it to me. “Buying in” doesn’t necessarily mean I am committed to what I have “bought.” It may well mean that the other person has done a very good job of selling, not that the idea is particularly good. In other words, it has not captured my “spirit.”
So, here is my chance to add to the vernacular of organizational development. Rather than promoting or seeking “buy in,” I am advocating for something much different and deeper. What I seek as a leader is “believe in.”
More than once it has been said to me that I can be a bit “hokey” and too idealistic when it comes to my ideas and beliefs. I have been told that I go “over the top” on this whole concept of commitment. To be truthful, that is the truth about me!
There is a power in believing, that cannot be measured. There is something innate about belief that lies at our very core. Perhaps many of us could cite times when, despite the odds, our belief carried us on to success.
I am reminded of my first attempt at running a marathon. I completed all of the training as prescribed in “Runners’ World” magazine and believed I had developed the capacity to complete the 26.2-mile trek. Unfortunately, I did the exact opposite of what I was supposed to do as a first time marathoner… I started out like gangbusters and by mile 17 while running downhill, my body literally hit “the wall.” Mile 17 meant I still had nine to go… not necessarily a stroll in the park in that 33 degree temperature where precipitation was a constant mix of rain and snow.
What kept me going? Well, besides the green banana I consumed at mile 17 and the sports drinks at various stations throughout the race (which one time had to be poured into my mouth because I was shivering too much to do it myself), it fundamentally came down to the belief I had in my training and myself to complete the journey. My belief would not let me quit as I walked and (sort of) jogged the remaining nine miles. I’m convinced that had someone “sold” me on the idea that I could complete the marathon without the deep belief that I could, I would not have done so. It was my “believe in” that carried me forward, one step at a time, during that miserable experience.
In Urbandale, I am not looking for “buy in” to our vision, mission, values, and goals. It is not my intent to “sell” this to anyone, for if I were to successfully do so, I’m not sure how people would respond when challenges arose and times got difficult. However, by encouraging people to learn and deepen their understanding of what it is we hope to accomplish, helping them to understand WHY it is important, and providing examples of student success, we are on our way to developing the “believe in” that is so important in reaching one’s goals, no matter what obstacles come our way. The power of believing in something may well be one of the greatest forces on Earth.
In the movie “The Matrix,” there comes a point when the hero of the story acts upon instinct rather than wondering whether or not he can complete a herculean task. It is at that point the heroine of the movie asks the hero’s mentor what’s happening; to which the mentor replies, “He’s beginning to believe.”
What can be accomplished when organizations create this foundation of “believe in?” This is what we hope to discover in Urbandale as we continue to lay the foundation and invite people to read, learn, and even question what it is and why it is we hope to accomplish this transformation of our district. Only when people are given this autonomy are they ever truly able to get past “buy in” and move into the deeper territory of “believe in.”
Months and months of training taught me to believe in my ability to run a distance that many say is beyond the limits of a human’s physical capacity. Even when my “tank was empty” my belief was so strong that I was able to do whatever was necessary to complete my goal. If it weren’t for that belief (and the green banana at mile 17), the ending to my marathon story would be much different.
That’s the power of “believe in.” You can believe in it!