How to achieve buy-in? Six tips on how to become a great communicator

It’s easy to identify communication as a key component of leadership success, but many struggle to relay an idea or get their bosses, colleagues and subordinates to “buy-in” to their ideas. If you have a strategic vision for your company and your role within it, it is essential to impart that upon others and gain their endorsement.

Below are six tips that you can immediately incorporate to get to that next level of communication success and earn the essential “buy-in” of your peers.

Show it. Sometimes it’s just about looking the part. Communication can be about your outward appearance, often the foundation of your first impression. This doesn’t mean how you are dressed necessarily, but instead how you hold yourself. Prove your confidence by showing it. This can influences how you express an idea: an energetic tone, smiling, nodding, strong eye contact, firm handshake, and an easy and relaxed posture. All these display, engage and bolster “buy-in.”

Keep it simple. Over-explanation will be the first nail in your coffin. If no one knows what you are talking about, then it will be nearly impossible to fulfill your strategic vision. Complexity is valued by the lonely, and triumph is never attained alone. Confident leaders will make it simple for those around them, allowing those people to “buy-in” to the idea. Yes, you might sound smart using industry jargon and flourishes, but there’s no quicker way to lose a room and tamp down excitement.

Share. We have a tendency to want to keep everything close to the chest, but sometimes it’s overkill. If you’re seeking investment from people in your company, they need to know what the hell is going on. Tell them. Sharing information strategically will make you more valuable to your organization and potentially raise your profile as an expert. This is how trust is built, and it will develop that “buy-in” you want from bosses, colleagues, and subordinates.

Improvise. Any great leader can identify a communication formula that works, and it’s needed because the modern work environment forces people to think on their feet. Brevity is the soul of wit and the avenue to the desired “buy-in.” Learn to give off-the-cuff statements that concisely summarize your point in a few sentences or less. Someone who can deliver on his/her feet impresses everyone, and that improvisation is a craft that can be mastered.

Spin a yarn. Humans naturally communicate by telling stories, so use that to your advantage. Add anecdotes to meetings and presentations as well as casual conversations to drive home the points and ideas that you want to impact onto others. Some may find it difficult to remember only the essential point. But once it is illustrated in a story, people can use it as a guiding light to remember and more easily “buy in” to the concept.

Ask questions. Any great leader knows that their education is never complete. If you don’t take the time to hear what’s happening from the basement to the penthouse of your company, then you’re not going to address problems that could blow up later and maybe even miss some opportunities. It’s important to make yourself available and hear from others. Because no mater how smart you are, you don’t have all the answers.

Yes, sometimes the answers won’t matter, but colleagues and subordinates will always appreciate you taking a moment to step back and listen.

Many Generations in the Workplace

With so many generations in the workplace, how do you find common ground to work optimally together?

Currently there are four generations in the workplace.  They are:

  • WW II generation (born before 1943)
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1944 and 1963)
  • Generation X (born between 1964 and 1984)
  • Gen Y or Millennials (born between 1985 and 2005)

Research has shown that each generation views work and careers differently though many experts disagree on the degree to which their perspective vary.  Furthermore, it is necessary to realize that this is at best imprecise, and those born on or around a so-called boundary years (i.e. 1963 between Boomers and Xers) might very well be inclined to be with one generation or the other.

I believe it is still important for effective leaders to be aware of these potential differences in perspective if they are going to maximize performance and fully understand how different members of the team may approach a problem or work/life balance.   This is also not an “airy fairy” effort to achieve an artificial diversity goal but can be of value to any team for a number of reasons.

  • An expansion of the number of creative ideas available to you
  • Better contacts with your customer or client base
  • Access to a wider range of problem solvers
  • Reduction in tensions and hostilities across demographic and generational lines
  • An increased appreciation of different people, ideas, and general respect for others

Research has shown that perhaps the biggest factor in working across the “divide” is establishing trust with each other across generational lines.  This may often times require a good deal of listening by the leader to determine why and how alternative approaches are proposed.  For example, in general, Boomers tend to value competence. Xers value relationship/communication and seem to have a greater need for open discussion.

Probably the best place for the leader to start is to get the team to focus on what they agree on.  It is also important to keep in mind that other factors affect how individuals confront problems and work effectively on teams.  It should not be surprising to learn that generally men and women often have different perspectives of what leaders do and how they do it.  The literature further suggests culture also influences individual perceptions, roles and identities. Surveys of cross-generational teams also indicates that in addition to culture, gender, age, and education are important, and these factors influence each other. If you only look at one factor, it may lead you to mistaken conclusions.

It is critical to keep in remember that not every member of generation is “that way”.  Failing to keep this in mind can potentially create biases in dealing with other generations.  Finally, it is useful to keep in mind the words of Winnie the Pooh!  What makes me different…is what makes me….Me!

-Dr. Jeff McCausland

Interview with Jeff McCausland at a D6 Pearl Harbor Workshop

In January, Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy CEO Jeff McCausland traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, with a group of college students. Their trip came only a month after the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they planned to use the attack as a case study from which they could draw important leadership lessons. 

Below is a brief interview that was conducted with Jeff during the workshop that gives an overview of how he conducted this seminar, which gives some insight to the many other workshops D6 teaches as well.

Tell us about your approach.

Jeff: Over my time teaching, I’ve used historical case studies to examine enduring concepts of leadership and organizational theory, whether that’s thinking about strategy or emotional intelligence. I firmly believe these are very effective case studies because people find them interesting and you can use the history then to see where those particular principals and concepts are illustrated positively and negatively.

Many I’ve used have a military context because I’m retired military. I’ve used the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania, Yorktown in Virginia, the Nixon Library in Los Angeles, the Alamo in San Antonio and over the past few years I’ve used Pearl Harbor.

Are there specific leadership ideas that you’re teaching here at Pearl Harbor?

We’ll talk about organizational culture, organizational change, innovation, strategic vision, team building, effective communications, and those are just the emotional intelligence portion. We’ll talk about all of those concepts and use events and anecdotes from the actual attack on Dec. 7, 1941 on Pearl Harbor to illustrate that within a historical case study. And we’ll look at the good and the bad.

I like to emphasize that this is an iconic moment to come here because we just passed the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

What’s an important lesson learned at Pearl Harbor?

When you see the world changing, good leaders have to examine, as part of an organization – whether it’s the United States military at Pearl Harbor or Microsoft or AT&T – the following question: what are the implicit and explicit assumptions that are guiding our investments and our strategy for the future? Where do we want to go? Where is the world going? Where should we be investing people, money and time? In the 1930s people said we’re going to invest in building big coastal artillery defenses and put lots of guns out there. In 1941, that became pretty irrelevant.

This interview was conducted by Chaminade University of Honolulu Senior Communications Writer Kapono Ryan in Honolulu, Hawaii. It has been condensed and edited by Diamond6.

CBS News – U.S. mission to rescue refugees unlikely

On a recent episode of CBS’s “Up to the Minute” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland provided some keen insights into the current problems that the Iraqi military faces, especially in light of the strengthened ISIS forces. Jeff also discussed the challenges faced by refugees and the United States governments, proffering some enlightening thoughts on how the situation is developing. Take a minute and follow the link here to hear Jeff’s thoughts on the situation.


Jeff Up to the Minute

D6 partners with leading Washington, DC think-tank

Check Out Our Featured Fall Workshop!

Diamond6 is excited to announce its latest partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Seven Revolutions (7Revs) program. The goal of this partnership is to combine leadership lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg with groundbreaking research into pressing global trends. This exclusive effort combines experts in leadership development and global change to create a one-of-a-kind program.

Together, D6 and CSIS have created a one-of-a-kind 2-day workshop experience. The 7 Revolutions Leadership Workshop  uses leadership lessons of the past to inform your decisions for the future of your organization. Leadership is the art of defining a vision for an organization and empowering others to follow that vision. Successful leaders must anticipate “revolutions” that will affect their organizations and prepare for future challenges using a combination of innovative leadership principles, best practices, and relevant data.

This workshop is perfect for leadership and management teams of medium to large corporations and non-profits.

Download the informational brochure here.

Learning from the Past, Exploring Challenges for the Future

The 2-day workshop includes a memorable day on the Gettysburg Battlefield with a historian and a leadership expert that will provide key leadership insights that are as applicable today as they were in 1863. We will complete our discussion in the cemetery where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address – perhaps the most succinct vision statement in the English language. On the second day we will examine Seven Revolutions, a comprehensive multimedia presentation of future trends created by CSIS. This includes innovative exercises and in-depth/tailored discussions that will transform any leader’s approach to emerging challenges. You will have the opportunity to dissect issues and evaluate priorities with CSIS’s leading scholars and Diamond6’s leadership experts to take the first step toward identifying actions that will positively affect the future of your organization.

The 2-DayWorkshop Schedule

Day 1
Arrive in Gettysburg
Gettysburg Leadership Overview and Battlefield Seminar
Overnight at the historic Gettysburg Hotel

Day 2
7 Revolutions Presentation
Group discussion and de-brief
Depart Gettysburg

Space is Limited!

We have set aside exclusive dates for this featured workshop but with limited space. The following dates are still available:

Friday October 11 & Saturday October 12
Monday October 14 & Tuesday October 15
Sunday November 10 & Monday November 11
Monday November 11 & Tuesday November 12
Thursday November 14 & Friday November 15
Friday November 15 & Saturday November 16

Learn More Today!

For more information or to sign up please contact Tanya McCausland at

ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call Recording

Thank you for joining in on the ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call on Wednesday, June 5th.
Below is a link to the recording and slides.

If you have any questions between now and our workshop in July please email us at

RECORDING LINK: ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call 6-5-13 7.06 PM

If you have trouble accessing it there due to different system requirements, you can access the recording here instead.

The Value of Assessments

I was recently asked by one of my clients to work with a newly assigned leader who was having a difficult time adjusting to her new position. She had previously broken all sales records in her division and was recognized by being promoted to head the entire international sales team. She was miserable in her new position and her boss was worried that her team was not going to make its quarterly numbers.

It is not unusual for a company to promote a top performer into a leadership position only to have him or her fail miserably.  What happens to those stars for whom we hold such high promise?

Today, many leaders are promoted based upon their technical ability rather than on their leadership skills. They often attained their leadership positions because they were strong individual performers. This approach to promotions is further supported by the focus of many corporate leadership development programs. We often find that these “leadership” programs are really management development programs in disguise, failing to recognize the difference between management and leadership. They focus primarily on the technical knowledge and skills required for the position.  What is often called the “Know” and “Do” part of the job.

Newer research, however, highlights the importance of what many call the “soft” skills required for successful leadership. The research of Rutgers University professor, Daniel Goleman, has found that “…the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.”  He goes on to write that, “self-awareness is the first component of emotional intelligence.” Self-awareness is a key leadership attribute in today’s global leadership environment and represents the “Be” of leadership, balancing out the “Know” and “Do” described above.

Leadership is about enlisting and engaging others in pursuing organizational mission and sustaining that engagement over time. Leadership is about achieving goals through others – it is a team sport. Communication, facilitation, conflict management, and empathy are just a few of the skills required to build strong leadership teams that can successfully execute a plan and achieve goals.

So let’s go back to our original question: What happens to our star performers who fail when moved into higher level leadership positions? So often the problem is that they were promoted only because of their technical competence as individual performers, not because they were emotionally intelligent, self-aware team leaders. There is a gap between their technical and interpersonal competence.

The good news is that emotional intelligence and self-awareness can be developed in most people.  Just as we can train people in the technical aspects of their jobs, we can also provide experiences that develop the “soft” skills required for successful leadership today.

Personality and behavioral assessments provide an ideal starting point for raising self-awareness and developing the interpersonal skills of leaders. Assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs®, DiSC®, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) and the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI®), are used annually with millions of people around the world to improve individual, team and organizational performance.

The use of appropriate assessments can help leaders gain a deep understanding of themselves and how they interact with others. These assessments also provide a common language and approach for understanding differences between people. They are powerful tools that provide invaluable insight for:

  • Interpersonal development
  • Leadership development and coaching
  • Team development
  • Conflict management
  • Executive coaching
  • Employee retention

Trained and certified assessment specialists can provide individualized assessment plans tailored to improve the effectiveness and productivity of your team and your organization.

By the way, that new leader described in the first paragraph is doing fine. I began by using the Myers-Briggs® to help her gain awareness of her innate personality type and the way it influenced her leadership style.  We then expanded our approach by helping her entire team better understand their differences and used that new knowledge to improve their communication and increase team effectiveness. The work continues.

Interested in using personal or team assessments?
Diamond6 has partnered with The Davis Group Ltd. to offer our clients a variety of insightful leadership assessments for individuals and leadership teams. For more information about the assessments we offer check out our Individual & Team Assessments page!

James Davis is President of the Davis Group Ltd. which specializes in leadership development and executive coaching.  His book, Sacred Leadership: Leading for the Greatest Good will be published in May. The Davis Group Ltd. is a close partner and collaborator of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC.

Creating a World Championship Team

Prior to the first game of the 1964 World Series, a sportswriter asked Yogi Berra, the manager of the New York Yankees, “Yogi, how do you create a world championship team?”  Berra answered without hesitation – “hire world championship players.”  The challenge faced bythe school principal in this cartoon and, for that matter, all organizations is the same as Yogi’s.  All leaders want to have “world champion teams,” and people want to be teammates!  But the question remains how to get there?  How do I find or develop the players?

Leadership is all about defining a vision and then convincing others to follow.  We often spend most of our time as leaders discussing how to maximize the output of the organizations, accomplish our agreed-upon mission and move in the direction of our vision for the future.  Still everyday leaders should ask themselves two questions about their organization.  First, are we accomplishing our mission?   This is fundamental to any organization.  But, second and of equal importance — are we building leaders and successful “ballplayers” for the future?   Successful leaders have to be like Yogi and recruit, develop, and retain “world championship players.”

Sadly, the principal in the cartoon is unlikely to have as much money at her disposal as the New York Yankees.   But there are still many things that can be done in any organization to attract great players and develop that “world championship team.”  Here are some questions that might guide your thinking.

Are we investing in player development?   Successful professional sports programs invest in the development of young players.  Organizations spend enormous amounts of money on fixed capital assets (buildings, computers, software, furnishings, equipment, etc.) but often only spend “pennies” on their “player development.”  How are we encouraging our “players” to develop and improve?

Are we giving leaders “space” to grow?  There is an old saying that “success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.” World championship players want the opportunity to demonstrate initiative, try new ideas and take risks.  Sadly, too many leaders stifle these efforts by either micro-managing or establishing a climate that will not tolerate any failures.

Who gets the credit when we win?  A successful corporate executive once said that it was crucial to engage in “deliberate deflection of credit.” The members of championship teams know it is all about the “team.” The name on the front of the jersey is far more important than the name on the back!  Still leaders must be quick to promote the individual accomplishments of their “ball players” and do so publicly.  A pat on the back or a simple “good job!” goes a long way and costs next to nothing.

What happens when we lose?  In the last year there was a scandal in Great Britain that resulted in the closing of the British tabloid, News of the World.  Reporters had hacked into the cell phone of a dead teenage girl and many others seeking “salacious scoops.” It was also alleged that the management of the paper had encouraged these efforts.  When Rupert Murdoch, owner of the newspaper, appeared before a Parliamentary committee he was asked if he was responsible.  Murdoch immediately replied “No!” and blamed his employees.  Successful leaders assume responsibility for failure.  They are not complacent about it, but realize that this is a key to establishing trust with their “players.” Players that trust the leadership will stay with the organization.  This mutual trust between leader and follower is the glue that holds organizations together.
Sadly, Yogi Berra never led the Yankees to a world championship as a manager, despite his success as a player.  Still, his words are important to any leader.  Recruiting, developing and then retaining high quality players is essential to the success of any organization.  Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “leaders are dealers in hope.” The members of any organization look to the leader, to not only set direction for the organization, but also to recognize their accomplishments and help them become the leaders of the future.

Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

This article is from our January 10, 2012 newsletter. Click here to view all our newsletter articles and features.

Resilience 101

“Resilience” is a new buzzword I’m seeing these days in a many different contexts.   We need to develop “systems resilience” to deal with potential cyber attacks.  We need more “resilient communities” to prepare for tragedy and the unexpected.  The government is creating programs to help develop “family resilience” to better cope with the stresses of military life. And the military seeks to develop “resilient soldiers,” less susceptible to traumatic stress disorder, better prepared to positively respond to stress and change.

Resilience is clearly a good thing. So what exactly is it, and how do we get some?

Like many things, resilience is both simple and complex.  In essence, it seems to come down to an ability to cope, and to respond well to adversity and stress.  The opposite of resilient  might be ‘fragile,’ ‘rigid,’ ‘delicate,’ or even ‘sensitive.’   Persistence is usually, but not always, associated with resilience.

When we talk about people being resilient, we really have to define the context, since resilience manifests itself differently in different contexts.   Different contexts may demand physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual or other types of resilience – or some of each –  to respond to different types of adversity.    Being resilient in one context does not assume resilience in another.  We’ve all seen people who may be mentally and physically very resilient in combat or high-stress environments (physical/mental resilience), but who emotionally over-react or are unbending with their families and friends (emotional/social resilience).   My graduate students are very successful in their personal and professional lives, but sometimes have views of the world that are quite rigid.  Graduate school seeks to develop ‘intellectual resilience’ by forcing students out of comfortable mental models, to try on different viewpoints and different ways of thinking.

So how does one become more ‘resilient?’

Aristotle said that if you want to become courageous, you need to do things that require courage.  He would say the same thing about resilience.  One must be willing to get out of one’s comfort-zone, and stretch one’s ability to adapt to a different environment, if one wants to develop greater resilience under stress or adversity.  In other words, one must subject oneself to the stress of not being comfortable.  In today’s culture, there is a temptation to find a comfortable niche, settle into a ‘comfort-zone’ and fight never to leave it.   We commit to career, marriage, family, community, mortgage – what one young friend of mine called  ‘the whole catastrophe.’    We seek stability, predictability, and… we get comfortable.

To stay nimble and resilient, we must occassionally force ourselves into endeavors and environments where we are not in complete control – and force ourselves to adapt.  We must be willing to at least consider, and accept with some equanimity,  the possibility that the things we count on can be taken away – our job, our money, lifestyle, health, friends, loved ones, our title and our reputation.   And we must be willing to ask ourselves that ‘existential’ question:  What is left, and who are we without those things?

To step out of our comfort-zone, we risk failure. Only by trying and failing, and trying again, do we develop the resilience to deal with things happening in a way that does not suit us.  Without learning to deal with failure, there can be no resilience.  Not getting what we want means to suffer, and, as the Greeks believed, wisdom only comes through suffering.

In dealing with difficulties and discomfort, we frequently use something called ‘self talk’ as a psychological tool to help ourselves deal with  difficult circumstances.  Self-talk has been shown to actually change the way we think, behave, and perceive our environment. “I can do this.”  “This too shall pass.”  “This is my opportunity.” “This is God’s will (or this is my fate).  I must deal with this as best I can.” “I am strong.”   ”I am confident.”  Prayer is a form of self talk.  A wise person once warned against asking God to give us the result we want, recommending instead that we pray for the strength (resilience) to deal with what He gives us.

My old friend Master Chief Will Guild suggested two essentials to resilience:  a sense of humor and love.  A sense of humor gets us outside of ourselves and our own ego-driven self absorption.  It can deflate the pressures of fear, anger, panic and resentment.  Love likewise gets us outside of the immediacy of our personal anxiety– loving others, in spite of their failings, and loving ourselves, in spite of our failings. Indeed, Aristotle saw self-love, or ‘proper pride’ as a fundamental virtue.   Maintaining our self-respect and personal sense of dignity, when all is going wrong, is essential to a resilient response to challenge and adversity.  Without self respect and ‘proper pride,’ collapse in the face of adversity is predictable.

SEAL training is very much about developing physical and mental resilience to respond to adversity in battle or special operations.  SEAL basic training creates a somewhat artificial adversity in a controlled training environment that serves as a crucible to develop the resilience needed to respond well to the real fear and adversity of combat.  Master Chief Guild used to teach SEAL trainees four key techniques for developing the resilience necessary to succeed at their baic training, and by extension, in combat. These are variations on what sports psychologists teach to professional athletes to help them perform their best under stress and pressure.

First, maintain a positive attitude – believe in yourself, keep your sense of humor, and use self talk to stay positive.

Second, learn positive visualization. Visualize and believe in your own success, whatever that looks like. Positive visualization prepares us mentally for the challenge at hand, and for what it feels like to succeed.

Third, practice segmentation.  Break the challenge you are facing into bite-size goals -– this event, this day. Set simple, achievable, short term goals. Don’t look beyond getting through the challenge of the moment, the event, or the day.

Fourth, learn arousal control.  Learn techniques to calm yourself when fear, panic and anxiety seem ready to overwhelm you.  These techniques include meditation, deep breathing, heart-rate management.  And again, self talk.

The best literature I’ve read on resilience is from the Roman Stoics and from Viktor Frankl in his classic short book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Vadm Stockdale wrote extensively about how Stoicism helped him survive seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.  Stoicism divides the world into two spheres – things we can control, and things we can’t.  The Stoic believes that we develop psychic resilience (and serenity) by learning to accept fate’s dictates, assuming full responsibility for our actions and attitudes, and developing the “wisdom to know the difference” between what we have to accept and what we can affect.  Viktor Frankl’s book is about the resilience that comes from having a purpose for living – a goal for one’s life.  This greater sense of purpose provides the strength and motivation to overcome life’s challenges.  Man’s Search for Meaning is about how Frankl found meaning in his suffering in a German concentration camp, and how his belief in his own life’s purpose was key to his survival.  Both Stockdale and Frankl would argue that a strong will to adapt, survive, and prevail is essential.

In conclusion, there is much that can be said and written about resilience.   It is key to success and survival in dynamic, stressful, and rapidly changing environments.  As with leadership and character, resilience seems to be at least partly innate – some people are naturally more resilient and adaptable than others, and some people seem to be born with a stronger will to succeed.  But as with character and leadership, resilience and strength of will can be improved through experience, training and education.   We can intentionally develop more flexible mental models, a broader perspective, and we can learn to imagine things as different than they are.     It can help a lot to have a resilient and inspiring teacher, leader, or mentor who believes in us.

It is useful to remember that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection put a very high premium on resilience.

Bob Schoultz is a graduate of Stanford University and was commissioned an ensign and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado California in the summer of 1975. He then served as Naval Special Warfare officer for 30 years, with numerous extended tours overseas in a wide variety of commands. You can read more of his articles on leadership on his blog at

This article is from our November, 2011 newsletter. Click here to view all our newsletter articles and features.