Page 26 - Network Magazine Summer 2019
P. 26

            This Word
Unleashes Change
& Innovation
Have you ever worked for a boss who always said no? If you have, my first guess is it was a frustrating experi- ence. My second guess is you don’t hold said boss in high regard as a leader. I’ve always been amazed at the number of well-known axioms espousing the benefits of learning to use the word “no” with greater frequency. In fact, there are some very bright people who believe you simply can- not become a good leader without developing a mastery for using the word no – I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve never been a big fan of telling people no, but I’m a huge propo- nent of the advantages of helping people learn how to get to a yes. Smart leadership creates an environment where yes is not viewed as a weakness, but as an opportunity.
While inherently obvious, it should not go unnoticed that the use of the word no is 100% negative. The word no ends discussions, stifles creativity, kills innovation, im- pedes learning, and gates initiative. Put simply, the word no advances nothing, grows nothing, builds nothing and incentivizes nothing. No is not all it’s cracked-up to be. Smart leaders create and foster a culture of “yes” rather than use “no” as a tactical weapon just because they can.
Unless accompanied by a tremendous amount of rea- soned dialog, the use of “no” is rarely informative, much less instructive. Most leaders simply don’t take the time to have the needed conversation surrounding a no. More- over, when those conversations do occur they tend to be focused on admonishment rather than teachable mo-
ments. Teaching someone how to get to a yes is one of the most valuable things a leader can do. It was Sir Richard Branson who said: “I have enjoyed life a lot more by saying yes than by saying no.” Saying yes is both valuable and fun, so why not learn how to help people to a yes?
As a leader you should challenge, probe, assess, validate, and even confront on a regular basis. By all means ask people to justify their logic. It’s perfectly okay to ask “Why should I say yes to this?” and it’s even more okay to expect a good answer. Make sure however that when you send a person back to the drawing board it’s a teaching exercise and not a death sentence.
By helping people refine their thinking you’re in essence clarifying your expectations, developing them in the process, and advancing the ball at the same time – this is simply good leadership. Where leadership is concerned, a slow “yes” is often more instructive, and ultimately much more productive than a fast “no.” When you’re tempted to give a no as your answer, stop and ask some of the following questions first – you’ll be glad you did:
1. Before I give you an answer, I’d like to know more about your thought process here. Can you tell me more about how you arrived at this point?
2. Let’s peel back the layers on this issue a bit – can you help me better understand your logic on this?
3. That’s an interesting idea – who else is onboard with this?
4. I’m not sure I understand how this aligns with our cur- rent direction. How does this add value to our core mission?
5. Help me connect the dots on this one – why will this take us where we want to go?
6. Have you identified all the risks here, and what are your contingency plans should things not progress as expected?
7. What’s the downside should we not move forward with this?
Ask yourself this question – If as a leader you find your- self always saying no, what does that tell you about your leadership ability? It means your vision is not understood, your team is not aligned, and your talent is not perform- ing up to par. It means you’re not teaching, mentoring, communicating, or leading. The perception that strong leaders say no and weak leaders say yes is simply flawed thinking. Leaders need to communicate trust in their team – they need to create an environment where people are not afraid to seek opportunity, to pursue innovation, or to change their mind. A constant stream of “no’s” is not a positive sign, it’s a warning sign that needs to be heeded.

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