Welcome back to another peek into the wide world of conversation! Recently we’ve examined dialogues and feedback, today we’re checking out invitations.
You’re in conversations involving invitations all of the time. Knowing how to craft a great one is a fantastic skill to have and can have a huge impact on how your invitation is received. Check out how differently these sound:
There’s an open shift on Thursday, can you work it? No big deal if you can’t.
Luke had to give up some shifts this week to go see his father, I’m asking a few people if they could work one. I’d love to have you pick up his Thursday shift, we need someone like you who can work all stations in case we need to switch around the line-up. It’ll be a great shift, Thursdays are busy but aren’t late nights. Plus, it’s Leia’s first night back from vacation and she promised to bring in snacks. I think everyone will have a smooth, solid, fun night if you’re in the mix. What do you think? I’m asking you first, I’ve got other options if you can’t do it.
You can also use an invitation in situations where declining isn’t a simple option (e.g., we’re implementing a new policy, we’re changing a traditional system, we do things like this and we need you to as well if it’s going to work), and the team you’re bringing it to wasn’t part of the decision making. What you’re really inviting here is commitment and support.
Whatever your end result is for an invitation, there are some simple steps you can take to make it a compelling one. Read on to find out more, and please send me your thoughts! I’m open to hearing anything you’ve got; the yay’s, eh’s, and whatever Lemon, you’re way off base here’s.
Thank you for your time! -Becky
Crafting Invitations to Gain Commitment
by Becky Lemon, 4/3/19
Gaining commitment from others to a direction or a way of doing things that is new to them can be tricky if you’re not in the business of commanding and controlling their will. An organic and powerful way of ensuring others will commit to something new is by being in dialogue with them, figuring out a way to get to where you both need to go together. Sometimes that type of conversation isn’t an option; every now and then you as a leader, or a group you’re a part of, are the ones that must forge a path that you need others to follow and you’ve got to communicate that to a team or individuals that didn’t make the decisions. What does that conversation sound like if you don’t want top-down compliance? Quite simply, it’s an invitation.
Invitations have a tricky relationship with compliance. In some cases it’s clear that your invitation can be safely accepted or declined without significant consequence, for example you’re inviting them to work on a project, attend a meeting, or help out the team by covering an open shift. In circumstances where it is expressed or implied that they are obliged to accept if they want to maintain their current status, you may craft a compelling invitation to inspire commitment, support, and action instead of forcing compliance by simply communicating “you’re doing this.” Examples here include:
- Adopting a new reservation or POS system
- Implementing a new policy on shift drinks, cell phone usage, smoke breaks, etc.
- Changing in-times on a standard schedule
- Establishing new expectations following feedback
Invitations, like dialogues, have a recipe that you can follow to make the conversation satisfying and effective for all parties involved.
- Share the big picture
- Why is it important that you accept? Why do I want you to participate?
- What would be the payoff for you/what’s in it for you?
- What does it give us as an organization/team?
These four small steps make a gigantic difference when your goal is to inspire commitment and action while also creating trust, connection, and accountability. Here’s how.
Share the Big Picture (Build trust)
This is where you state what you’re inviting them into and put everything into context. Why are we here? What was missing that we think this makes present (i.e., what did we need that we think this is a great solution for)? What did the journey look like from the beginning to now? What are the intentions behind this and the intentions of people that created it? Sharing this kind of information and any other pertinent details helps to create mutual understanding of the entire situation. It also lays the groundwork for gaining their trust in this new proposition and your role in it. Without these elements, people are left to fill in any unexplained who, what, where, when, and whys on their own which leads to misalignment, judgment, and conflict. When you’re expressing the big picture, bring all you’ve got to it. How present and passionate you are when discussing it will have a huge impact on your ability to capture their interest and draw them in further to the conversation.
Why is it important that you accept? Why do I want you to participate? (Create connection)
Your answers to these similar questions are obviously tied to the specifics of the situation and people involved. It’s easy to skim the surface when figuring out what you want to express here, challenge yourself to dig as deeply as you can. This your opportunity to really acknowledge them and their unique perspective. This is where you can signal that you see them, that you’ve taken them into account, how you’ve taken them into account, and that you want to include them. This is where you help them see themselves in the middle of the big picture and integral to it, which builds their connection to the whole situation. This is also where you might need to identify what will happen if they don’t accept the invitation – is this optional? Commitment and compliance are related but separate, be clear about whether you’re asking for one, the other, or both.
What would be the payoff for you? What’s in it for you? (Acknowledge the transaction & possibilities)
Whether we’re aware of it or not, human beings are socially wired to expect something in return for their efforts or contributions. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. Why not lean into that instinct and open up room to focus on how accepting this invitation will benefit them? Bringing attention to possibilities not only helps them see what they’ll gain, it also slows down people’s tendency to surface and hold onto what they think is “wrong” with the new proposition. If they can see that they’ll get something they want out of getting on board, their connection to what they’re being invited into increases along with their likelihood to respond with an authentic “I’m in.”
What does it give us as an organization or as a team? (Highlight the relationship & contribution)
If something is in it for them, then something is in it for someone else. We all know this, it’s essential to simply name it and bring balance to the invitation. Explaining how this new proposition benefits a broader group does something even more important – it helps them see how their efforts will mean something in the greater scheme of things. We all want to know that what we do matters, that we are part of something that is making a difference. Paint that picture for them.
You’ll know you’ve gotten through the conversation successfully if there is mutual understanding between you of what you’re inviting them into, and you’ve established that you’re in this together and need one another – there’s a relationship here as well as mutual responsibility. Of course, conversations are living, breathing entities and throughout any step of this invitation you might need to move into a dialogue to get understanding of something or engage in feedback to increase trust between you.
Ultimately, the next step is their response. They’ll either say yes to the invitation and authentically commit or they’ll decline and you’ll both move into a new conversation, perhaps a dialogue answering “what do we do now?”. That is where you may uncover conflict with the new situation that must be resolved to move forward. If conflict cannot be resolved or commitment cannot be attained (and it’s essential to their current status), it may signal a change in responsibilities or that it’s time for a separation. If they do commit, start talking about how this solidifies any new expectations and get on the same page about how you’re each holding yourselves accountable to them, how you’ll each be held accountable, and how to hold one another accountable.
Real Life Example
This is a brief outline of the invitation we extended to the brand-new Young Joni hourly team on their very first day. We wanted to express to them the nature of our collaborative culture, and that by joining us they are committing to contributing to it. It went a little something like this:
1. Big picture told by Ann & Con. History of our organization and how we got here (opening this restaurant), who we are and what our values are, where do we want to go (vision is incorporated here)
2. We want to form a team that wants to work together, and you have the creativity, skills, knowledge, experience, and passion to help us build it. We need your voice, we want to hear your ideas and for you to be a part of realizing them.
3. You’ll work in a healthy environment that cares about your well-being, with a leadership team that is operating with clear values. You’ll be part of a team that produces amazing food and exciting cocktails with a fantastic wine list and authentic hospitality. Our commitment to excellence will make you proud to work here.
4. We’ll get a team, a family, a community of passionate people who are helping us improve every day. We’ll have a healthy, successful restaurant that supports its team and its guests.
Next steps: If you can commit to being in it with us in this way, welcome aboard! If you cannot, let’s talk further and see if we can gain understanding and remove any roadblocks to your commitment. If we can’t, this might not be the right fit.
When the situation calls for the conversation to be an invitation or include one, it’s worthwhile to take the time to craft and express a compelling one. Find a way to make this recipe your own and start practicing it – you’ll be spending more time in sync with everyone on your team, and you’ll all be moving together with commitment toward where you need to be.
A Few Notes
On sources: I learned the four steps to crafting a great invitation from my coaches at Growing Edge Facilitation, Patrick O’Brien and Carl Blanz. This article reflects my interpretation of those steps. These ideas are also heavily influenced by the work of Angeles Arrien that both coaches shared with me, specifically her thoughts on the Warrior/Leader from her book The Four-Fold Way. I am forever grateful for these and many other ideas that they opened me up to.
On support: This article in particular, and all articles I’ve written for Vestalia, benefit immensely from the input and feedback given by my go-to editors Jeff Wynn, Amie Bresnahan, Rachael Crew, and Peter Lemon. Thank you for your insight, creativity, generosity, and patience!