12.08.2019

Yes or No. It's a Leadership Choice.

By Martin Haworth
Martin Haworth

Every decision we make, in business—in life in general—is bounded by just two options. Like an on-off switch, we make one or the other - there are no variances to this. Because it's as simple as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

And so often we get it wrong.

It's those times that we say 'Yes', when it would serve us much better to say 'No' and we often say 'No' when there are real benefits in saying 'Yes'.

So, let's take a look at those situations we get ourselves into.

Saying 'No' More


It is quite natural to say 'Yes'. We do it every day in our lives and it is the least confrontational thing we can do. Agreeing to the wishes of others pampers to our inner need to be liked, to be loved.

For humans are social animals. We like to be liked by our peers - and so we go along with them. In business this is no different. It is tough, for most of us, to say 'No'. So we agree to what is demanded of us. And with what consequences?

Saying 'Yes', too often, leads us to complications we can do without. In the worst cases we take on tasks that others ask us to do, without question, which grinds us down, makes us bitter and generates a 'blame' feeling in us.

We agree to things that others, maybe stronger, maybe just more thick-skinned, thrust at us.

Passing accountability to us, who say 'Yes' too often.

One solution to this is simple. At least put off 'Yes' decisions some of the time.

By positive procrastination, we can put ourselves off making the wrong 'Yes' decision in haste - so make it tomorrow by coming up with a few 'let me think about it' phrases.

By training ourselves - on just a few occasions to start with - we build our strength to say 'No' a little more often each day. People start to realise we aren't a pushover anymore.

Another solution is to agree only on our terms. To say 'Yes' with a proviso. That a new ad-hoc piece of work can only be done if something else is dropped. Or on our timescale.

Pushing back on someone else's urgency helps them to realise that there needs to be a different way - and they gradually learn to treat you differently too. New 'boundaries' are set. And everyone wins.

And now the opposite!

Accepting a 'Yes' is OK!


There is a converse to the saying 'Yes' too often problem.

Sometimes we don't say it enough. Maybe our 'reserve' means that whatever happens, we can cope. We can manage. So that when people offer us help. Make a gesture, that we feel we 'shouldn't' accept it.

So we don't. And the problems pile up.

Accepting help by saying 'Yes', makes everyone is a winner. It really does! You win, because you accept help. You show that you are open to support and you model that it's OK - to the rest of your team.

There is another win. If you offered help to someone and they accepted, how would you feel about it? You would feel a stronger bond to the person who accepted. It's nice to be wanted.

Offering support and having it accepted is a magnificent feeling.

By being the one who says 'Yes' you show others that it's OK too.

And others ask as well, and accept.

The team grows by development support generously given and gratefully accepted. This repositioning of 'Yes' and 'No' works in business as well as at home. The simple examples shown here are snippets of what this change in your philosophy can create - there is much more opportunity here.

To say 'No' less and 'Yes' more.

In the right places.


Martin Haworth is a coach, trainer and writer (of things that sometimes just pop up for him!). As a leader, he now realised the times when he needed to say 'Yes' sometimes, and 'No' at others. He lives in Gloucester, England and travels extensively as a Leadership Trainer and Coach with TNM Coaching.

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