The Myth of 100% BUY IN-but how to get close.

Optin-Opt Out copy

The OPT OUT versus OPT IN leadership dilemma

Buy in. Though it may not be the Holy Grail of team leadership, it certainly is in the treasure room.

Leaders want “buy in.” If the team owns the idea, if the company or the organization moves to a place of consensus, synergy happens, movement happens, and lots of good happens.

Make a training or teaching optional though, and participation drops drastically. In the non-profit world, participation dives down to just the “faithful few” who will be there every time the doors are open. In the business world, you have those who buy in and a whole group of sycophants who attend thinking attendance will someone ingratiate them to leadership.

Instead of creating optional events where people have to OPT IN, if you create an event or situation that is OPT OUT only, you will get higher participation, but you run the risk of creating resentment.

Buy in. Though it may not be the Holy Grail of team leadership, it certainly is in the treasure room.

First examples.

While pastoring “The Ocean International Community church” I felt that leadership development was critical. We offered leadership training consistently, but participation was limited to the deeply committed.

One weekend, we took our regularly scheduled weekend gatherings and told everyone:

“Next week, we will not be having a normal gathering. The whole morning will be dedicated to leadership training. We begin at 8 AM and we will finish at noon.”

At the time, our community was around 300 in Sunday morning attendance. 160+ attended the event. One hundred sixty people went through leadership training. Juxtapose that to the 20-30 that would attend a leadership training if we simply “offered” it as an option. The people who did not come had to intentionally opt out.

Now, did they all engage in leadership after the training? No, certainly not.

Did it give us a larger pool of possible leaders to draw from when we saw needs in our organization? Certainly.

If something is central to your values or your identity, consider creating events that are OPT OUT versus OPT IN.

Second example

The organization I currently serve with is AGWM. Our representatives worldwide are all donor supported, mostly through churches in the Assemblies of God. Typical overseas assignments are 4 years abroad, one year in the U.S. for fundraising.

Until recently, the summer event called Training/Renewal was a mandatory event. All units on furlough were expected to come. Then a few years ago, to reduce costs, leadership made the decision to allow those who had attended 3 times, to no longer be mandated to come. Participation dropped drastically. The policy will be reversed next year.

The Cost of OPT OUT.

OPT OUT is an expensive proposition. For us, it meant committed one Sunday to the event. For many organizations, one day may not seem much, but in the life of a church, when you only get everyone together 4, maybe 5 times a month, a whole Sunday represented a significant risk. We knew many people would opt out. We were pleasantly surprised at the turnout. With a non-profit, event participation is never as high as for businesses, whether it be a church service, or a community event.

With a business, Opt Out is much more trickier since employers can mandate participation.

When to choose OPT IN.

OPT IN is a great tool for new classes, new initiatives and situations where you need to know if you have BUY IN. Currently, my boss is offering a leadership training event with limited spaces. With a large organization, we will know from the response who has bought in and who hasn’t. (If we’ve done our job of communicating well enough).

When to use OPT OUT.

Use OPT OUT when you have values or mission based training or event. Leadership training for me is a high value, so as the leader of the organization, I was willing to take a risk because our leadership felt the return would be worth the risk.

OPT OUT is an expensive proposition.

AND… A third example.

A high value for our church was community. However, if you have ever been part of a religious gathering of any sort, you will know that people come late and leave as early as possible. To empower that value, we did away with many of the superfluous elements of our gathering, cut down the number of people on the microphone, and put in 15 minutes in the middle of our service for having coffee and tea. OPTing OUT meant staying in your seat and refusing to join everyone in the lobby. Some did but most engaged. Percentage wise, the compare that to the percentage who would have participated if we offered coffee and tea before or after the service.

As a leader, using OPT OUT can be a powerful tool. Make sure that when you do pull this out of your toolbar, you are not doing so for something that you are passionate about but isn’t central to the mission, identity and values of the organization, team or department you lead.

What do you think? Have you tried OPT OUT instead of  OPT IN?








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