There is power in both the words “yes” and “no.” These simple words allow us to take on new challenges and do so at the proper time, but it takes wisdom to know when and how to deploy both.
Last May, I wrote about “yes, and” and how that mindset allows you to move things forward and build off of existing ideas and processes. When we say “yes, and” we are taking information presented to us and applying a continuous improvement mindset to add something more.
Living a life of yes opens up new pathways, new adventures, and new improvements. It allows us to experiment and take calculated risks. It is a way for us to apply what we know and take it one step further. In short, “yes” makes things better.
But there’s also power in saying “no.” When options come that knock us off course and distract us from our mission, we must be secure enough to say “no,” and we must make it clear to those we supervise that they are empowered to say “no.” They need to have the psychological safety to say “no” when it is necessary.
AME Hall of Famer Cliff Ransom likes to say that an organization’s firefighters are often the arsonists. These people aren’t deliberately setting fires, but if they are easily knocked off course by constantly saying “yes,” they may consume resources and time that could be better applied elsewhere. They are unintentionally starting a fire that they will need to put out later.
Understanding the power and importance of saying “no,” means that your organization can focus on its True North. What does your strategic plan say is important? What do your customers need from you? What do your internal customers — your employees — need from you? Saying “no” allows you to keep focusing on the answers to these questions.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. It is difficult to say “no” to good ideas that come your way. One strategy to deal with these things is to create a running spreadsheet of important but not urgent suggestions and ideas. When they come in, add the ideas to your spreadsheet. Score it based on its urgency and potential impact, and give it a target date to revisit and possibly implement. Recording and returning to a suggestion also honors the suggestion and gives the person who submitted it a sense of when you’ll be able to address it.
Knowing when and how to deploy “yes” and “no” will help you keep focused on where you want to go while staying true to our continuous improvement ideals.
As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.