Before I started working for the government, I was given advice that has stuck with me throughout. The advice was: You will hear ‘no’ a lot. Don’t take ‘no’ as a final answer. Keep asking until someone will say yes. And, as luck would have it, I have in fact heard ‘no’ throughout my career.
Many career articles will give advice on how to say ‘no’. Today, though I encourage you to say yes. And here’s why:
Say yes: Accept situations that help you grow and connect
I’ve recently been binge watching Frankie and Grace. Two of the main characters are two women who could not be more different from each other. Of the two, I resonate more with the Grace character. She believes life can be scheduled and that there’s a way to do things. Albeit retired, Grace is a Type A person.
In one scene, Frankie talks about how she and her husband used to have ‘say yes nights’. In short, anything that one person suggests for that evening, the other person has to agree to do. Frankie and Grace, of course, agree to have a ‘say yes night’. Hilarity ensues. As the Grace-type character, I have to admit that I cringed each time Frankie suggested something outrageous. In the end, the two women got to try things that were outside of their comfort zone. They had a good time. And more importantly, they learned a bit about themselves and each other.
Say yes: Demonstrate leadership
In addition to binge watching, I also just finished reading It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks. The author commented about how all of us find ways to say no and put up roadblocks. That we then begin looking for things to say ‘no’ to in order to avoid taking a risk or creating more work for ourselves. And when I read this, I honestly thought “This is SO government!” with a follow up thought of “Oh my, I say no all the time”.
He also talked about how people in positions of power often wield that power by saying no. He recalled examples of how kids have to accept parents saying no, and employees have to abide by managers saying no. And, that as kids grow up and employees move up, they too think that it now means they get to be the ones who get to decide, and get to say no.
But here’s the thing. Leadership is about clearing the path for your people. It’s about removing barriers and finding resources to let the team succeed.
Say yes today
So here’s my challenge to you. Pick a day this week. And say yes. Your team has a new idea that you’d normally say no to? Find a way to help them make it work. Look for a part of it that they can implement.
Get asked to do something that you’d normally avoid like the plague? I can think of a zillion things that are hyped as ‘team building’ that would make me want to call in sick to avoid. Instead, I challenge you (and me) to play along. If Grace can go out bra-less and dance on a bar and live to tell about it…I think you can do a silly role-play in front of the room.