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The Law of Buy In – Leadership for Contractors

Introduction to the Law of Buy-In

Welcome back!  Today we are continuing in our study of John Maxwell’s best selling book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  We are looking at how these laws can be uniquely applied to the construction and remodeling industries.  These podcasts are tools that can teach you leadership principles and how those principles can improve your businesses.  They can also be shared with members of your company to help them improve their leadership skills.  

If you are listening to individual podcasts, these laws are actually part of an entire course on Construct-Ed that looks at how these laws can be used to build better leaders in the construction industry.

chris jurin profile 200pxMy name is Chris Jurin and I am the CEO of Construct-Ed.  Construct-Ed is an online learning community dedicated to helping you build better construction and remodeling companies.  We are here to add value to you and it is our mission that our members improve their knowledge and skills in both your professional and your personal lives.  As a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team, I am able to add value to you by helping you explore these laws and then provide examples of how they can be applied to your everyday activities.  In addition to being a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team, I also serve as the president of a commercial roofing firm as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.

The importance of Buy-In

The construction industry is a tough industry.  Nothing is accomplished alone by one person.  Projects take teams. Construction companies and their crews arrive at a site where nothing exists. They assemble raw materials and when they leave months later there is a building left standing.  

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Other companies show up at an existing building – whether it is a residence or a commercial building – and replace a portion of the building as part of their project.  Whether it is a roof replacement or possibly a flooring job, their presence will disrupt the site operations to some degree. This step is similar to performing surgery.  They need to be as least invasive as possible – but know that they are going to inconvenience someone during the course of the project.  It is not a question of whether they will disrupt the site.  It is really a question of how much!

Construction projects, depending on the size of the project, requires numerous people, equipment and materials in order to have a successful project.  The more complex the project, the more the leaders of the projects need to be able to cast a vision for the project and then lead team members to accomplish that vision.  Fulfilling the vision requires that leaders gain the buy-in from their team members.  

Just as project leaders must successfully communicate a project vision throughout the entire project, the leaders of an entire company must gain the buy-in from their strategic employees in order to build a sustainable business.  This requires leaders to share their vision with their strategic team members and at the same time secure the buy-in from their team members by connecting with them.  

Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar Animation Studios has stated in his best-selling book Creativity Inc. “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”  

A team made up of brilliant individuals who are given an idea and then empowered and lead by a leader that they can believe in, then they will accomplish great things.  If the same brilliant team members have a leader that they cannot work with, then their chances of success are greatly diminished.  

 

Exploring the Law of Buy-In

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell explores the Law of Buy-in.  He establishes the law on the premise that “People buy into the leader, then the vision”.  Sounds fair.  But what does that actually mean – to buy into the leader?  Doesn’t the leader typically have a vision and the vision is what excites the team?

Construction is a different industry that most other industries.  While the goal of the project is something that team members can buy into, the steps to go from where the project is at to where it needs to go may be less inspiring.  But, the steps are necessary in order to accomplish the overall goal of the project.  The leader must get buy-in from the team in order to be confident that they can achieve the goal of the project.

Dirt has a way of derailing momentum.  Construction and remodeling projects are always something.  They are too dirty, too dusty, too cold or too hot, too wet, too dangerous.  As Mike Rowe has stated, “Dirt used to be a badge of honor. Dirt used to look like work. But we’ve scrubbed the dirt off the face of work, and consequently we’ve created this suspicion of anything that’s too dirty.”  Dirt delays buy-in.    

In order to propel a team and its members past the dirty work, leaders must inspire their teams to go further.  They have to help them scale the dirt pile and keep their eyes on the future without losing site of the goal of the project.  The team members have to trust and believe in their leader first, and then the leader will have a greater chance of having the team members contribute to the goal.

 

Gaining Buy-In

As John Maxwell shares, leaders cannot be separated from the goals that they have put in front of their teams.  You cannot be a poor leader and still lead your team effectively to achieve the goals in front of them.  Remember the Law of the Lid.  The capabilities of the leader will be the lid on the rest of the organization.  The lower the leadership lid, the less chance the team will follow the leader and buy into the vision.  

Buy-in requires that the followers believe in and see value in the leader first.  Once they have bought into the leader, then they can look towards the vision that the leader is casting.  John Maxwell explores four combinations that can occur when looking at whether or not followers buy into the leader and the vision.

Let’s look at how those combinations play into the construction and remodeling industries.

Let’s take an example of a construction project manager on a large scale construction project.  The project is a new high school with a value of $100 million dollars.  The project manager has oversight of the project for the construction company who holds the contract for the project.

  1. The construction crews don’t like the project manager and don’t buy into the vision for the project.

When construction crews and team members don’t like the project manager they get irritable.  When they don’t buy into the vision for the project they are working on the project is hampered.  When the teams don’t like their leader and they don’t care about their project the overall conditions on the site spiral downward and out of control.  Morale takes a nosedive and the project is heading for problems.

So what happens if the project manager doesn’t connect with their subs and crews?  You guessed it – the project manager is out and a new manager is brought in.  Hopefully it can be done early enough in the process to give the project a chance to recover.  

 

  1. The construction crews don’t like the project manager but they believe in the vision for the project.

This is only slightly better than the first option.  Remember what Ed Catmull shared – a mediocre team or project manager can take a great project and make it a disaster.  The vision for the project may be great.  The plans and design were well conceived by the architect.  The project is well funded.  The subs on the project are well aligned.  Everything seems to be lined up for a great project.  

But the project manager is a problem.  He does not connect with his teams or subs.  For one reason or another, the teams don’t believe in him.  It could be the result of a poor set of decisions.  Or they just have a rotten attitude.  Any way that you look at it, if the team believes in the vision, but cannot connect with the leader than the leader is out.

  1. The construction crews like the project manager, but don’t quite buy into the project.  

This is a unique situation.  In construction, you cannot just adjust the plans on the project because you don’t like the design.  The design is the design.  So it takes a creative project manager to help reset the project in a way that addresses the concerns of the teams, but still moves the project towards its end goal.

There may be concerns that the teams have regarding safety.  The crews may be concerned about how to execute the work safely.  A savvy project manager will learn to ask the right questions without jumping to conclusions or an answer too quickly.  Asking questions and probing the situation can help a project manager learn what the root cause of the concerns are.  

If the crews and subs like the project manager, but are questioning the vision for the project then the crews will adopt a new vision – or just walk away from the project.  It is up to the project manager to understand how to flush out the problem and help readjust the vision.  

 

  1. The construction crews like the project manager, and they buy into the project.  

When crews and subs buy into both the project manager and the vision for the project, the project gains momentum.  In Law #16 – the Law of the Big Mo – you will learn about how momentum is used in project manager and leadership.  Nowhere in the world is momentum more important than in construction and remodeling.  When a project is in the groove, it appears to carry itself.  But when momentum is lost, it can seem like carrying cinder blocks on your back.  

When the project manager can gain buy-in from the crews for both himself and the project, the project has a much greater chance for success.  Morale will be higher.  A focus on quality will be higher.  And small issues that come up on every construction project will not have as much of an effect on the forward progress of the project.

 

Closing –

Buy-in is a critical component of success for leaders in the construction and remodeling industries.  Without it, forward progress is stopped.

Do you find yourself saying:

  • I constantly am hammering on my crew to get their work done, but they just don’t move.  
  • I repeat myself over and over again, but they just don’t seem to listen.
  • I explain what I want to achieve, but they just slack off.  

Chances are that if you have uttered these words that you might be failing to connect with your crews and fellow team members and as a result are not getting buy-in from them.  Take the time to connect and gain their buy-in.  Start by connecting one-on-one with key members of your team.  And then build on those connections until you connect with your entire team.  Look for ways to get buy-in and then lead them to the goals for your project and your company.

Thanks for taking your time to talk about the Law of Buy-in.  If we can be of any help or add value to you or your team, please leave a comment below and we will do our best to get you answers and help you build yourself and your company!

The John Maxwell Team has outstanding resources for helping you develop your leadership skills.  These skills can be developed in a way that will help you in both your professional and personal lives.  I would suggest that you look at resources including the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  

Click on the Products tab which will take you to the John Maxwell Team online store.  Search for the content on the site or take time to browse the online store.

Check out Construct-Ed for more training and education resources related to leadership in construction.

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