A Positive “NO” is more powerful than a Negative “YES”!

Why we don’t like to say “NO”

When I started my own business, it was one of the areas which I have really struggled, my employees didn’t like to say “NO” to me, and they didn’t want to disagree with me in anyways because they didn’t want to displease me! Also when they say “YES” they didn’t really mean “YES”, they didn’t understand the effectiveness of “YES & NO”! It really kind of started bothering me, because I was not getting any new ideas or new perspectives or at times I was not even sure if they were aligned with my vision or I even had doubt if we were heading in the right direction on what we were doing (typical first time startup)! I had my own circle of friends and network, but I still wanted new ideas, perceptions and  initiatives from within my own team, because they were the ones working with me to build what I want or helping me to accomplish my goals, but it was always “YES Sir”, nothing beyond that, so it was bit too much for me.

The Impact of ‘YES’ & ‘NO’

When we were in the middle of a project, we were running on tight delivery schedule, one of my manager didn’t want to upset me or didn’t want to displease me , during our project follow-up meeting he committed to deliver on a specific date, based on that I did in turn commit to my client, the client was one of early adaptors, just before the delivery date the manager communicated to me they were not able to complete due to lack of resources and due to lack of knowledge in the new technology, naturally I was upset the reason I was not communicated earlier otherwise I could have planned it better or I would have arranged or pulled some other resources from other team, I was also upset because this was not communicated during our regular follow-up meetings too! We couldn’t deliver and we have lost the client, later I have found out that manager didn’t want to say ‘NO’ to me, he thought somehow he could deliver, but he didn’t know how, good attitude but wrong approach, lack of experience and over confidence played a major role.

Pleasing People

I have realized that, this tendency comes from our upbringing and culture of pleasing people beyond our belief and strength, though I had developed less confrontational leadership techniques with wide range of motivational and people management skills from my previous jobs in India and US, nothing helped me here, it was real test for my leadership and management skill, but when you are a startup you wear multiple hats, at times I didn’t even know which hat I was wearing! When I was working in US, I was part of a large team which had diverse group of people from across the globe, so we had a chance to bring different mindset and different thinking to the table, but I was not seeing that in my own group or in my own company, so I quickly realized that it was part of first time entrepreneur learning and decided to bring in some change.

Just don’t say, Mean It

So I sat down with my team and I clearly told them, “you don’t have to love me or like me, just respect me for what I am and I will do the same to you, and let’s work together to make things better. I’m not an expert in what you are doing, that’s why I hired you, so you have to give me your best when you are here, even if you have to say ‘NO’ to me at times, please be my guest, there is absolutely nothing wrong in saying ‘NO’ for whatever may be the reason (you may be over loaded, you are not sure how it works, you don’t know since it’s new technology etc. but tell me the actual fact, I’ll figure out)  none of us are experts and we are all leaning, so it’s acceptable if you don’t know, as long as you are willing to learn I’m okay with it, so next time clearly make sure and mean when you say ‘NO’, it really means NO, then it’s my job I’ll figure out how to resolve the issue, this give me an opportunity to plan and work out the details, our objective is to succeed at the end within given time”!

A Positive “NO” is much more powerful than a Negative “YES”!

There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying ‘NO’ to any one, personally or professionally! To your parents, to your friends, to your boss, to your coworker or anyone else! At times a positive NO is much more meaningful than a negative “YES”! Be honest and sincere in your action and mean what you say! By saying NO you become a better person and a better Leader, you are creating an opportunity to help others, to improve and you will also help your organization to perform better and to produce better results. As our world of business becomes more complex and diverse, every little action will help to improve the growth, revenue and profit margins, of course, our lives!

As the old saying goes “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”, it was a learning experience for me, but it was all worth it! None of the Business Schools can teach you what you learn in real time!


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