Resource Library

3 Effective Questions to Achieve Buy-In

Topics: Insights


Getting buy-in to any plan will require good communication and negotiation skills. Your job as a negotiator is to create an environment where the other side can not only accurately articulate their needs, but also trust you with information that might affect their leverage.

One way to do that is by asking calibrated questions. Simply put, calibrated questions are questions that begin with what, how, or sometimes, why. There’s something about the way these questions hit the brain that makes people stop and think. Your counterpart won’t be able to provide a one-word answer to a question like this: How are we supposed to do that?

If you’ve been reading this newsletter regularly, you’ll know that I often refer to The Black Swan Group as the source for the material I’m presenting. Their methods are used in the direst of situations when a human life is on the line. They work for one reason alone. They were dealing with a human, and the negotiators understood human behavior from an emotional standpoint.

Chris used the knowledge gained through hostage negotiation and applied it to the business world though his company, The Black Swan Group. Well, enough qualifying the source, here’s what they say about getting buy in.

Here are three examples of calibrated questions and why they work.

1. How does this fit?

This question is designed to get your counterpart to take a step back and look at the problem holistically. The other side might not know the answer. But this is a good thing. Sometimes, you need to ask questions that your counterpart will have to run by people on their team (e.g., the ultimate decision maker).

2. What makes you ask?

As the old saying goes, the question behind the question is more important.

We know that people are generally not good at asking questions. On the other hand, asking this calibrated question returns the volley to your counterpart, who will then reveal the question behind the question.

Are you concerned that you’ll get a negative response to this question? Don’t be. If the other side seems frustrated by your response, say something like this: “I always want to make sure that I answer your questions to the fullest of my ability. At no point do I want you to feel misled.”

One last thing: “Why do you ask?” is not the same question. The other side might respond to this question with something like: “Because it’s my job.” You’ll get a much more specific answer by leading with what.

3. How do I know your team is on board?

There is sometimes a team on the other side. It’s not common that you be speaking with someone who makes decisions all on their own. And even if you're speaking to someone who is a one-person shop, it’s possible (and likely) there is still someone with whom they confide in and bounce ideas off of.

This question is designed to unify the team on the other side. And the answer will also indicate whether or not they actually plan on buying into your plan and honoring their agreements. Remember, a yes is only meaningful when there is a how after it. Beware of the counterfeit yes.

Resource Library

6 Ways to Genuinely Connect with Your Team

Topics: Insights


Communicating openly with your team, recognizing them for their efforts, and giving them room to grow will greatly improve their engagement and department efficiency.

What difference would it make for your department to get each one of your team members excited about solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of our clients?

The single element that distinguishes one company from another, more than anything else, is its people and the effort they exert.

The secret to unlocking this source of energy for your team is to build and strengthen the bonds between you. When you trust and respect your people, and really connect with them, they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm.

Give these seven strategies for connecting with your team a try and see for yourself how your team benefits.

1. Put your team members first.

All team members want to be respected and valued for their contributions. Respect comes in many different forms: respecting opinions, respecting time, respecting culture, and more.

2. Create a safe space.

In many organizations, bosses rule their employees through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Unfortunately, over the long term, fear causes employees to contribute less to their organizations and to disconnect both mentally (checking out, clamming up) and physically (absenteeism, resignation). Team members must feel safe when they take the initiative to try something new, whether the idea works or not. It's your job to provide your people with a safe space to bring forward their ideas, and to tell the truth, no matter how hard it may be for you to hear.

3. Break down barriers to information.

Team members must be informed through constant and clear communication by their co-workers, managers, and customers, about what's going on in the organization and their place within it. Only when they have complete information can they give all they have to their organization.

4. Create opportunities for personal growth.

There are many non-financial ways that leaders can provide opportunities for growth.  Building an owner's mentality in the department, including giving team members real responsibility and authority to make decisions that affect their jobs and their work.

When you give your team the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs, you and your department will be successful because you're depending on them to do the right thing on their own instead of depending on policies and procedures that force them to do so.

5. Engage your people.

Dedicated team members are a tremendous potential source of organizational improvement, and you should make it a point to regularly tap this wealth of ideas.

6. Make recognition the norm.

The amazing thing about this is that the most effective forms of employee recognition cost little or no money, such as verbal and written thank-you notes for team members who do a good job, and publicly celebrating team and group successes.

Resource Library

Direct vs. Indirect communication

Topics: Insights


Understanding the differences between direct and indirect communication can help you understand how to interpret a message. If you recognize your counterpart's communication style, you are more likely to avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts.

The LOSW Vision sets a standard of clear and direct communication, but we understand that every individual may have their own personal challenges to this style of communication.

In order to shed some light on the differences between direct and indirect communication, here are a few situations or ways in which direct and indirect communication differ:

Word choices

Direct communicators often use clear messages that that require few words to express. They often focus on the clarity of their message rather than its interpretation. For example, a direct communicator might simply say no to requests they don't want to do or ones that make them uncomfortable.

Indirect communication often involves subtle language, including a particular choice of words to maintain polite speech and avoid offending the receiver. Being polite is often more important than being succinct as an indirect communicator.


Direct communication is easy to interpret because the speaker clearly states their message in a few simple words. The meaning of their message is explicit, so their statements present little risk of misunderstanding.

Indirect communication often requires a listener to interpret their message using nonverbal cues, tone and the context of the discussion. A listener often gathers information from other sources when trying to interpret indirect communication, so the speaker's intentions are implicit. It might be challenging for someone accustomed to a more direct communication style to understand the meaning of indirect statements.

Conflict management

Direct communication is often more appropriate when dealing with conflict because it is effective when trying to solve a problem. When language is clear and direct, a resolution can reach a distinct conclusion sooner and with less chance for prolonged conflict.

Indirect communicators prefer to handle problems with discretion and strategy. They often focus on their message's interpretation rather than making their message clear and distinct. Some conflicts may warrant indirect communication, but when trying to quickly solve an issue, direct communication works best.

Written communication

Direct written communication is concise and straightforward. Situations that might require direct written communication are emergencies, information of low importance or expected news. In these cases, most communicators opt for simple messages with clear explanations.

Indirect written communication demonstrates courtesy and respect for a reader. Situations that warrant indirect communication include messages where you communicate unexpected news that might upset a reader. In these cases, you might introduce your message with a compliment or better news and explain the possible positive outcomes of the bad news.

Cultural preference

Cultures that often use more direct communication, typically Western cultures, usually appreciate direct truthfulness in a business setting.

In cultures where indirect communication is prevalent, typically Eastern cultures, people often consider it impolite to communicate negative information directly. If you conduct business with people who might prefer indirect communication, diplomatic strategies and politeness when confronting a disagreement might work best.