Saying Yes is nice, but saying No is magic

Smiling plate won't be saying no
You will never hear this companion saying No to you.

It’s 9am and you wait quietly while your colleagues shuffle silently into the meeting room. At this time of the week, it’s a status update meeting. The last time somebody gave an unfavourable status report in this session, they were scrutinised to within an inch of their life, being grilled with question after question about why things weren’t going as planned.

The conference phone rings. It’s the boss on the other end, calling from a different office. Everyone says hello. You can feel the tension in the room escalating as the session begins. Around the room we go, reporting on the status of our respective tasks until the wrong answer is given.

The wrong answer is “it’s behind schedule”.

Immediately, the figurative spotlight shines on the individual and they break into a sweat, speaking too much to try to justify their response. After 10 minutes of explanations and assurances that the problems will be fixed, the spotlight dims and the atmosphere returns to normal, at least until the next unfavourable response.

The meeting ends and the person who gave the wrong answer vows never to do it again. “It’s not worth the hassle, I might as well just keep quiet so I can get through the meeting.”

Have you ever been in a meeting like this? Do you run your meetings this way? Where everything is an interrogation, where intense scrutiny and negative energy is heaped upon those that try to do the right thing?

When you place extreme scrutiny on negative outcomes, those outcomes will disappear

Yes, that’s right. If you make people fearful of telling an inconvenient truth because they know they will be put through the ringer, this behaviour will disappear.

What you will get instead, is an environment where everybody says the “right” thing.

The only problem is, the “right” thing won’t help you.

What you need is:

  • Honest feedback in an environment where people don’t fear reprisal
  • A supportive environment where people feel like if they are having problems, others are there to help

Encourage people to start saying No

If you reward your team for consistently saying “yes”, you will miss out on the benefits of hearing someone saying No.

Saying No is powerful.

Saying No tells you that things aren’t right. Saying No tells you that there is an issue that may need to be fixed. Saying No gives you an opportunity to do something.

“Yes” means that things are going well, or that people aren’t telling the truth because they fear the results.

Encourage people to start saying No, it’s the only way you’ll get any better.

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