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Generate Buy-In for Your Ideas at Work

Every day we communicate with our team members, colleagues, clients and bosses. While it might not seem like it, up to 40% of our communications are some attempt to influence others. Whether it’s gaining buy-in for a new initiative or convincing a colleague that your perspective is accurate, we need to get others on our side.

I spoke with award-winning speaker and change strategist Michael McQueen about the art and science of changing minds. He is a bestselling author of ten books, with his newest release MindStuck recently hitting the bookshelf. With clients including Google, Toyota, and Mastercard, he has helped some of the world’s most successful brands navigate uncertainty and stay one step ahead of change.

Michael shared key insights on how to avoid triggering defense mechanisms while actively gaining the person’s trust and generating buy-in.  

We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong

Our understanding of the human mind and its decision-making process has its roots in the wisdom of Francis Bacon, a key figure from the early 1600s. Bacon, who coined the phrase “knowledge is power,” suggested that humans are rational thinkers. Therefore, if someone had the wrong opinion, it was due to a knowledge gap. Following this logic, in order to change someone's perspective, we must simply provide them with information and evidence until they see reason. 

However, Michael explained that recent research has shown that this approach may do more harm than good, causing people to become more entrenched in their beliefs. Despite all the information clearly pointing to the contrary of their position, people are often unable to shift their thinking as the brain is working tirelessly to avoid being wrong.

Address the Fear of Loss

While it's commonly believed that humans fear change, it's actually the fear of loss that holds them back. This is especially true for changing beliefs. The loss of certainty, power, and dignity are key factors that cause resistance to change of all sorts. Whenever you suggest a new way of doing something, you are in essence, suggesting a change, and with that comes the fear of loss. 

When you proactively acknowledge these perceived losses when communicating about changes, you provide a sense of continuity and security. As you “sell” your plan to a team member, Michael recommends we consider how to provide certainty and enable the person to maintain dignity and power. For example, he says to position a change as an extension of what is already happening. By building off of what already exists, the change seems less intense, and you’ll more easily generate buy-in.

Stop Trying to Win

In a world that is so contentious, it’s no surprise that we feel the need to win. But, when we try to overpower our team members, clients or colleagues in order to prove a point or get our way, we risk damaging the relationship which only hurts us in the long run. Winning an argument at the cost of someone's dignity or trust can hardly be called a victory. 

Rather than viewing arguments as battles to win, Michael offers the analogy of a dance. In a dance, you synchronize and adapt, giving and taking steps to create something beautiful together. The key is active listening. It fosters a mutual exchange where individuals are more receptive to hearing our ideas when they feel heard and valued. Encouraging individuals to articulate their thoughts can reveal logical inconsistencies in their own arguments, leading to constructive dialogue instead of confrontations.

Generate Buy-In Through Questions

The ability to ask thought-provoking questions can be a game-changer for managers. In Michael’s experience, there are two questions that can help break through a stubborn mind. First, ask, "On a scale from one to ten, how inclined are you to support a specific idea or project?" Then, ask, “Why wasn’t that number lower?” The surprise of focusing on why the number isn’t lower set’s the person at ease. (You’re not trying to surface their concerns and convince them otherwise.) Plus, it allows them to share what they do like or appreciate about the idea, giving you ground to build from.

In the grand scheme of things, becoming adept at persuasion is not about winning arguments or overpowering resistance. It's about understanding, connecting, and guiding individuals towards a common goal. As managers, our role is not to command, but to inspire. By mastering the art of persuasion, we can lead our teams towards growth, development, and ultimate success.

Listen to the entire episode HERE to learn more about conflict management.

Keep up with Michael McQueen

- Follow Michael on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook 

- Visit Michael’s official website for other resources here

Guest Bonus: FREE Exclusive Mini Masterclass Video Series

In this mini masterclass video series, bestselling author Michael McQueen will share practical insights for mastering the art of changing stubborn minds from his latest book, Mindstuck. The series includes 5 videos on topics including “What we’ve got wrong about being right” and “It takes 2 questions to change a mind”.

Get this guest bonus and many other member benefits when you join The Modern Manager Podcast+ Community.


The Modern Manager is a leadership podcast for rockstar managers who want to create a working environment where people thrive, and great work gets done.

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