Getting executive buy-in with Fiona van Graan

Workplace transformations can be easily stymied by a lack of executive buy-in.

Workplace redesigns are nothing if not complex. Property, ICT, People and Culture and Change workstreams all work together on the unique problem of how to design a fit-for-purpose workplace. Added to that complexity, executive teams don’t always recognise the challenges or support needed to fully implement a workplace model that will achieve their goals. 

I spoke with Fiona van Graan recently on the Workplace Makers podcast about how workplace program managers can achieve executive buy-in. Fiona is a Corporate Coach working with C-suite executives. 

“Senior leaders by necessity have to think at a different level. So they are thinking more strategically. They’re thinking more about the future than the average punter in business. They have more at stake in those things. So the most important thing is to learn what is it that they care about? And what keeps them awake? And you can’t know those things without asking, but how do you ask because that can feel a little bit dangerous or a bit too personal.” – Fiona van Graan

Key moments

0:54 – Nina introduces Fiona. Fiona shares why the Leadership Trust was started in the UK by two SAS officers. 

4:24 – Fiona shares how C-suite leaders changed over the course of the leadership program and the biggest areas of change for participants.

5:26 – C-suite leaders’ goals and motivations and how one can better understand them. 

10:30 – Fiona notes a common misconception with leadership coaching – the expectation of a ‘quick fix’.

15:07 – Ways to increase influence and trust.

18:25 – The power of an apology.

21.25 – Psychological safety is often viewed as pink and fluffy but it really creates an avenue for innovation.

26:32 – How COVID has affected the culture of workplaces.

30:32 – How program managers can manage their language to help them achieve success.

Resources mentioned in the show

Harvard Business Review – IDEO’s culture of helping (

Fiona’s Choc Chili Tart recipe – not hers exactly, but very close – 

The Workplace Makers podcast explores workplace making – building modern workplaces that people are drawn to, wherever they work from

Workplace Makers – the podcast about people building workplaces that attract a crowd

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