So much of the work I do involves getting professionals to do things that they do not necessarily want to do because it will take more time, more responsibility, more accountability, more collaboration and more energy on their part. My philosophy on gaining buy-in is that we develop and gain it AS we do the work with adults, not necessarily prior to starting the work.
Let me give you an example: When a district gets a new language arts program with all of the bells and whistles and pallets and pallets of material, some people will shout “Yeah! The new material is FINALLY here!”, some will say, “Why do we need new material?” and some will groan, “Ugh, another new thing that our Superintendent is making us do.” Supporting the “Yeah!” person is easy, but the trickier parts of creating buy-in is with the “Why do we need new material” and “Ugh, another new thing…” people. For those types of folks, we could train them to death, show them videos until their eyes bled and had them talk to other people who are successfully using the same materials over and over again, but it won’t work. Why? Because they want to see that it works with THEIR KIDS.
So, trying to convince a naysayer ahead of time that a new program is great, really isn’t your best bet. Where I find the most buy-in is built is AS the work is being done. For example, a naysayer might have an epiphany about teaching reading to his ELL students while a coach or consultant demonstrates a lesson in HIS classroom. Another teacher might have an “I get it!” moment when we are one-on-one looking at the data and collaborating on next steps for a group of struggling students. In fact, sometimes those naysayers become our greatest allies because they have tested, fought and wrestled with what it is they are asked to do and have come to terms with it on their own. It becomes a personal mission, not just something that the administrator wants them to do. It’s with these folks that I see the most change – in practice and in attitude.
So what’s the moral? Avoid feeling like you cannot begin a new step in improving your school until everyone is “on board” – get started, get better at it, get in the trenches with folks and just see if buy-in doesn’t come along as you engage in the work.