I love sharing this strategy, it's just so satisfying when you try it and see it working. It may take a little practice at first because there’s a little reflecting and/or testing to do. But once you’re up and running with this strategy, it’s golden.
This article is grounded in the psychology principles of the DISC personality profiling tool. Applied to the workplace it’s a little bit like magic. And who doesn’t need a bit of that from time to time?
So you’re trying to get buy-in? In this instance when talking about personality types, it’s not about yours but about that of the person you’re trying to persuade. What is their preferred communication style, are they a gut, intuition, emotional or cold hard facts person? Do they need it things in bullet points or with all the details laid out in a spreadsheet or will broad brush-strokes in a chat do it for them? It’s worth figuring it out.
Here’s what 15 years of working with creative industry clients to communicate and convince more effectively using DISC has taught me.
Is your boss a direct communicator who send bullet point rich emails with little or no warm fuzzies in the introduction? Do they start with your name and not so much as a hey or hi? Do they not even bother with your name? Are they a consummate delegator? Do people consider them blunt? Do they like to play devil’s advocate? Are they pretty competitive? If so, this person likely has some DISC D traits. (D stands for Dominant, Direct, Decisive).
Your approach with them needs to be direct too. They hate wasting time. They like efficiency because they are ambitious and trying to get a lot done. So be succinct and to the point. They, of the 4 DISC types I’m going to mention here, are the ones who really really value what’s in it for their team’s goals or even what’s in it for them or their personal agenda the most highly? Do they have a pet project or ongoing goal that your project or idea could boost or support? How does you getting what you want help them get what they want? Lead with this. Arrive prepared - you don’t have long to make your case. Tell them about any gut feelings you have on the project. Waste no time in offering to email them your idea or project outline clearly highlighting what’s of value in it for their agenda. You’ll get their buy-in when their gut tells them your project is just the ticket for helping to deliver their goals.
Is the decision maker you are dealing with charming, persuasive with a warm handshake and enthusiasm to spare? Are they somewhat of a handwaver and/or facially expressive type who talks in stories? A story for everything? And who can fire out ideas like popcorn popping? Are they easily sidetracked, or over-run meetings due to being enthusiastic? Do they encourage others by nature? This person has DISC I traits. (I stands for Influencing, Inspiring, Ideas generating).
If you’re dealing with this type of person, you can literally grab them at the water cooler or stop at their desk and ask if they can spare ten minutes to talk to you about something. Talk to them in big picture terms about what your vision or ideas are around the thing you want buy-in for. Feel free to talk about your inspiration for the project or idea. You can even talk about your intuition if that’s a resource you use. You can also use a little small talk or pre-amble. Ask them about themselves, show them you’ve taken them in as a person, not just a colleague - reference previous conversations or an interest of theirs. As they can be as easily side-tracked or distracted by new ideas as they are bad at follow up, make sure you are in charge of any follow up to move your idea or project forward. If things go quiet, don’t be afraid to rinse and repeat, grab them at the water cooler, swing by their office. Avoid giving them too much detail, however much it might be your style. Stick to broad brushstrokes ideas and let your enthusiasm or passion shine through. You want to inspire your I Type.
If, by contrast, your boss or decision maker is a pretty quiet type but a great team player, a nurturer who likes to make sure everyone has just what they need to get the job done and always seeks full team buy-in before they act, they have S traits. (S stands for Steadiness, Security, Supportive).
It’s best to let them know well in advance that you’d like a chat and what about. “Can I have a word?” is not clear enough and may lead to them getting anxious that you’re unhappy or are about to announce something leading to upheaval they really don’t want. They are loyal and very team focused. Sometimes to a fault. Make sure you let them know how the whole team will benefit from the project and ensure you have a mitigation or solution for any inherent risks and also a plan for minimising the resulting changes the project might create. The S type is decidedly unfond of either risk or change. They value security and predictability. They want to know what they are being asked to say yes to is a safe bet. Whilst they may be risk averse they are however, truly gifted at supporting others and follow up. So if they have to involve others in getting you the go-ahead (and they might not even need it but decide they want it) you can trust they will follow up and generally won’t mind if you ask how their follow up is going. You need your S Type decision maker to feel safe in making their decision. Be ready to answer why? questions.
Then there is the C type boss. (C stands for Conscientious, correct and contemplative) These decision makers are lovers of analysis, data and solid research. They don’t want to know about your gut, your hunch or your intuition. They want facts or even better proof. They are probably a boss with clear systems - regular 1:1s, a weekly team meeting held at the same time and place every week. As well as being a well organised boss they are usually very skilled at a specific process or technical thing. They might be the head of finance or someone who does a lot of planning. They value correctness. So a proper proposal in writing is the way forward. Arrange a time to meet in advance, Cs do not enjoy last minute anything. Give them the top line of what you want to talk about in an email. In writing is best. Create an agenda. Turn up on time and well-prepared. They live for data and research - can you back up your claims with stats or data? Can you use a spreadsheet? Send the information to them before the meeting to peruse. Also, unless very well briefed or prepared in advance they are unlikely to give you an answer or commit in the meeting, as they’ll want to go away and think about it. So the more information you can give them in advance the better equipped they will feel to make a decision. You can absolutely ask them for a deadline by which they will be able to decide though. To get C Type buy-in you need facts and you need to be prepared to engage in “but what if?” questions asked to ensure all risks have been assessed and covered.
In short, if you want to get buy-in, know your buyer. What do they need in order to be convinced or persuaded to your cause or project? And how do they want to get it?
If you really aren’t sure which type your boss or decision maker is, and in fairness it’s not always cut and dried, most people have 2 DISC styles in their make up even if one is dominant, there is no harm in starting with the approach for your first best guess of their style and if it’s not yielding the desired result, try out your next best guess.
Once you approach convincing people in the style they are most comfortable communicating in, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to see a change. You’ll know when it’s working. People engage more, they get what you are trying to put across because you are essentially speaking their (DISC) language. In all the ways. Which naturally makes it so much easier to get the buy-in you’re after.