LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
The customer is always right, right? Well, “Yes, and…” We’ve all been pressed at the last minute to move up a deadline or expand the scope of an effort, usually without additional payment or time. We want to be accommodating and perceived as cooperative, but that can come at a price. We are tempted to compromise our own boundaries to ward off the worst-case scenario which might include being considered unhelpful, unlikable, or _____. In her podcast interview with Dave Stachowiack, Dr. Lois Frankel agrees that in response to an unethical or illegal request, a no is absolutely warranted.
But Frankel, author of the Nice Girls Don’t Get… series, offers an additional reason for saying no that might surprise the “Customer is always right” camp: A no is also warranted when a request could be accommodated but goes against our own principles, purpose, or brand. Self-proclaimed Nice Girl recounted a story about being asked to change a PowerPoint slide, she responded by saying, “I’m not willing to change this PowerPoint because, that’s part of the problem … we don’t say the tough stuff…” Frankel says, “If it’s the hill I want to die on, I’ll say no.”
Otherwise, when you feel that twinge in your gut in response to a request, use a different yes:
- “Yes, and…”: We can quickly assess a new request, like, “Oh my gosh, that is well beyond our original contract.” Consider saying, “Happy too present that data, and let’s revisit our contract to ensure we are still focusing on your priorities.”
- Invite Solutions: Ultimately, we all desire a win-win scenario. If we acquiesce without acknowledging the need for compromise, we fail to explore new solutions. Frankel suggests we address “the ask” and then “move to problem solving.”
- Acknowledge Change: Over time, we may collect new data or even move into a new role. It’s OK to change our minds or recognize the workload has shifted. We can say, “In light of these new insights, let’s brainstorm on transitioning this request to the new team.”
- Stay Positive: We must emphasis what we are willing to do, like, “I want to leave at 5:30PM; if I complete the report, I can get it to you noon, tomorrow.” rather than, “I can’t work late tonight and deliver by 8:00AM; I’ll miss my kid’s play.”
Notice that lengthy explanations are not needed and invite evaluation of our personal reasons rather than inviting compromise and negotiation. If your boundaries are worth protecting, then protect them. Respond to that twinge in your gut by offering reasonable choices and appearing cooperative. Finally, don’t forget that no is always an option.
Inspiration: Coaching for Leaders: Podcast 471: How to Say No Without Saying No, with Lois Frankel (via Overcast). The one where Dave Stachowiack (ste-HO-vee-ack) interviews Lois P. Frankel Ph.D., author of the Nice Girls Get… series: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office; Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich; Nice Girls Don’t Speak Up or Stand Out.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting all Christians, everywhere, for the purpose of Community, Accountability, Transformation, and Leadership. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.
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