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Why No Is The New Yes

Recently I was driving to work and my mobile phone rang. The call was from a salesperson who works for the Atlanta Braves Baseball Team and he was trying to get me to buy tickets for employees or customers.

“Thanks, but I am not interested”, I said, ready to hang up. He replied, “Oh, then is there someone else I should be talking to instead of you? I was transferred here?”. I replied, “No, I am the local Site Leader. We recently surveyed our employees and there was not a lot of interest in Braves Tickets”. “Really? I am surprised to hear that. It really is a great perk. Do you want to come to the stadium for a free tour?, he stated. “No. I am not interested in the tour”, I said.  The salesperson seemed both shocked and annoyed that I kept saying no. He finally conceded and hung up.

While getting ready for work this morning at 6AM, three of my dogs decided it was a great time to wrestle and bark loudly. They would start and I would yell “no”. Quiet. Two minutes later they would start again. I would yell “no”. Quiet. And over and over. Dogs have a short memory.

I think it is human (and dog) nature to not like hearing the word “no”. And, it is often hard to say “no” to other people. But, we have to. Here are five questions and concepts to ponder about why No is the new Yes:

1)  YES actually means NO to something else: If you say yes to the new thing, understand what and how the other items on your plate will be impacted. There are only so many productive work hours in a week and you either have extra capacity or you do not. If you say yes, other things may slip through the cracks or slow down. If you continue to attempt “everything” the quality of your work will go down.

2) Is the YES what is most important? Over the past few months, I have been discussing a particular initiative with a colleague. The conversations usually go the same way. He talks about why this initiative is important and must be resourced. I share that I agree in concept, but that we have bigger fish to fry. I have deliberately NOT resourced this initiative and have made other choices. He is frustrated, but I believe in my choices. Life goes on.

3)  Saying NO can mean YES for work life balance:  I can be a tad rebellious when it comes to after-hours work requests. I feel strongly that we have to separate our work time from our personal time- to be most effective in each. So, I usually say no to any after-hours dinner or drinking related requests with colleagues, or business meetings after 5:30 PM, unless there are global implications. There are definitely exceptions and I do enjoy some of these after-hours events, but in general, I protect this time.  I know some of my colleagues feel obligated to always say yes to these. You simply do not have to. Take a stand for balance.

4) Make the NO about the request, not the person. To make it easier to say No, put your logic hat on and look at the factual work request and the value of that request, versus the person who sent it. I think this applies very well to meetings. At times, too many people or the wrong people get invited to meetings. You can help remedy this.

a. If you can delegate a meeting to someone on your team who manages that body of work, why feel guilty? It is a better use of their time than yours.

b. If you see that multiple people on your team have been invited to the same meeting, determine who is best to attend and ask them to cascade the viable points. This frees up the rest of your team to focus on other value add work.

5)  A YES can lead to a NO down the road: A great example of a yes that becomes a no, is when we make promises to customers that we know we can not keep (i.e. the dreaded overpr, and/or we sell what should be a standard product or solution with lots of customizations.

Initially, we say yes to the customer’s requests and it may make the customer happy or allow us to close a deal. When we get to the implementation process, we may have to start saying NO to original project dates, or NO to original cost estimates, which make our customer unhappy. When the customer is live in production and they experience a problem we may have to say NO to our original SLA, because the problems are too complex to fix quickly. Instead, we could invest more time up front guiding the customers to different choices that will support more Yes’s across the customer lifecycle.  When you say yes to anything, think about mid term and long term impact.

Not sure whether to say Yes or No? In the Fortune.com article, “Why saying no gets you ahead”, author Camille Preston recommends implementing a “24 hour pause period”. Per Camille, “Give yourself 24 hours before accepting any invitations, professional or personal. You don’t have to give an answer right away! Think about what you will get out of it, if it’s worth your precious time, and if it’s something you really want to do.” She also recommends avoiding “maybes”.

No is the new yes!