How can I get buy-in from senior leaders?

How can I get buy-in from senior leaders on a training that would give tremendous benefit to the organization? How can I prove effectiveness if I haven’t built anything yet?

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As I see it, the true goal of corporate learning/development/training is to bring about behavior change and improve individual, team, and organization level performance. The best way I know to get buy-in from senior leaders is to show that the training program will do this. Find numbers that aren’t where they should be, then look for the performance gap leading to the number gap, and then identify what’s causing the performance gap.

Training is not the answer to everything. In general, there are 4 high-level possibilities for looking at the cause of performance gaps:

  • Able to - Are they able to do the thing? Do they have the needed knowledge and/or skills? If not, you can teach them.
  • Willing to - Are they willing to do the thing, or are they just not doing it? You can’t teach them anything for this one. Someone needs to figure out motivation, not training.
  • Allowed to - This is the environment. Are they truly allowed to do the thing? Does the environment, workload, management, or anything else get in the way of them doing it? Training won’t help this, either.
  • Empowered to - Are they given permission to do the thing? Do they have the tools or job aids needed to do it? Again, training won’t help this situation.

As you can see, only one of the four high-level causes of performance gap can be addressed with training. If you can show senior leaders that the gap really falls under training and can help improve the bottom line, you’ll have a much better chance of getting approval for your training program.

And if you can find a catchy story that hits their emotions to tell while you’re pitching it to them, your chances are even better!


I am in total agreement with the response from learning.lane. In my experience, if you can provide data as to why the ‘lack of’ a certain behavior is hurting the bottom line, you will have more of a chance to influence the outcome. For instance: if the sales force does not know how to close the sale, how much money is the organization losing? What are the skills and competencies that successful salespeople need to be able to make this happen? In addition, who are the people in the organization that are already doing this successfully that can champion this effort? Training is not done in a vacuum, and we as Trainers are not the silver bullet.

The way your question is written seems to imply that you, as trainer, have come up with this idea, not the organization. If that is the case, you need to start with a totally different strategy. This calls for you to find at least one executive sponsor who believes in your idea. It means that you have to use your powers of influence and ability to affect change.


Pitch it right to get buy-in! Sharing a simple pitch structure:

  1. “I see opportunity to…” (share the problem, benefit and your vision)
  2. “So I’d like us to try…” (the thing you’d like to try i.e. your big idea)
  3. “Here’s why it should work” (supporting evidence from research, previous feedback, how it meets learners’ needs etc.)
  4. “Here’s what I need from you” (call to action e.g. what support, resources you need)

From here, hopefully at least get an endorsement to pilot/trial :slight_smile:


Great discussion going on here @TWLau @LynnEsquer @learning.lane @dalerh21. Amazing advice for people working to get buy-in from business.