Real Leaders Say No
I used to work for a boss who had an over riding rule, "The answer is YES" no matter what, we answer yes then figure it out, then we do it. While from a marketing point of view this may well have been great, from a real world perspective it was terrible, let me explain.
For a start there was an ever growing mountain of things to do, things that we have 'said yes' to I say we but you get the idea. So how much of this mountain of stuff got done, well, not that much actually in fact very little. We went from pillar to post running around trying to achieve one yes when another one popped up and we have to do that one instead. Everything was important, everything was needed yesterday and everything was the next thing that would solve the company performance and 'deliver to the bottom line" (note this is also another terrible phrase but perhaps for another discussion).
Saying Yes is Easy
Then nothing is...
~ Patrick Lencioni
Saying No is Hard
Saying No is hard, no one said Leadership was easy. There is No Leadership in YES, yes is easy, it's comfortable. Yet saying no to a whole bunch of really good idea's and possibly some not so good idea's frees you up to say yes to the great stuff that will move you and your company forward and let you focus on the things that really will drive you in the right direction. Saying No will let you remove clutter from your company, it'll free up resources to knock that critical project out of the park, to spend some time reducing waste and working on continuous improvement activities you have been meaning to get round too.
Michael Bungay Stanier, from The Box of Crayons has a great pitch on doing only Great Work, here is a link to his 2min run-down on his book Do More Great Work where he breaks it into 3 groups, Bad work - the stuff that just wastes time, Good work which are all the things you could do (and be saying yes too) and of course Great Work which is fulfilling and moves you along the path to achieving goals.
If you stop and think about it for a moment can you imaging the difference of putting all the resources of your company onto 2 or 3 clear goals Vs 10 or 15 or 20 goals? how faster would you achieve the outcome you need, how much faster would you be than your competitor?
So What is Really Important?
So how do you decide what to gets a Yes and what Gets a No? Well it's simpler than you may think:
First what is the real end result you want to have, where will the company or you need to be in the next 3 years, the next 5 years? Ok so what are the steps towards that ? what things need to be put in place to achieve that, anything that doesn't take you towards those places is a No.
Second, will this thing you are trying to decide on a Yes / No position on give any return either financially, professional, personally? is that return worth it when compared to the effort you will need to put in and when compared against the other things you have decided on saying Yes to, is the return as good or better than them? if it's not then perhaps it's actually a no.
Finally, be clear with everyone about what you are saying No too & why, what you are saying Yes too & why, that way everyone is clear so when they come up with the next proposal or opportunity or direction they can test it through your Yes / No filter before even thinking about moving forward.
I'll admit that sometimes you are forced into a yes when it should be a no for a whole range of reasons, when this happens though you need to be 100% clear with yourself and everyone else that this should be a No but you are doing it because X, Y & Z.
If you want to be a Leader, a real Leader, then you need to be willing to say No, that's not right, No that's not for us, No that's not how we work, to make those choices. After all anyone can say yes and if all you can do is say yes are you really leading?
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