The Power of No

Photo by sboneham

We live in a world of “Yes”, you can have it all or have it your way…  While yes is a great answer, a yes when it should be a no creates a cascade of problems.  If we have already reached our capacity, another yes pushes us over the edge and into the world of overwhelm.  CEB reports 88% of employees between 2009 and 2012 reported increased workload and 55% reported they had insufficient time to complete their work.  This says to me that at least half of us are saying yes when we really should be saying no.

By the way, I am not criticizing anyone for saying yes, when a no is more appropriate, demands on our time are rising, the pressure to do more is with us every day.  What happens if I say no?  Will I have a job, will I be thought of as lazy, as a trouble maker.  These are all valid concerns.

If we shouldn’t say yes and we can’t say no, what do we do, what is the answer?

My answer lies with the leadership team of an organization and the sort of environment they wish to create.  Recognizing demands on our companies are increasing, we aren’t asking others to do more simply because we can, we have to get stuff done.  As a leader, do we want to lead in an environment where everybody says yes?

If the only acceptable answer is yes, how can we trust those responses?  Are we going to be disappointed when the response is not fulfilled?  I see this all the time and would I rather deal with a problem at the moment of delivery or upfront when I can do something about it?

The alternative is to create an environment where it is encouraged to respond to a request with what we can do, and that may be I can’t do it.  If we can do this, now I know what we are able to do and when we don’t know how to do it.  This is my definition of true transparency.  Having this information as a leader is incredibly valuable, now I can lead my team through a range of critical conversations.  What would it take for us to do this?  Should we say no to the customer or renegotiate?  Do we need to grow the skills of the team?

The bigger benefit is to our team members who can now trust and respect their leadership team.  I will talk about this topic in upcoming posts, this is a big topic and we are only scratching the surface.