In principle, it is generally much harder to say no than to say yes, either in a group or as a group. As an individual in the face of group sentiment – sometimes called peer pressure – it is much easier to quietly agree than to take an opposing stand. As a group faced with adding things or cutting things, saying yes to new things is much easier than saying no because we get instant credit for new intentions but the liability – the responsibility for implementing the new initiative – is spread out over many individuals, put off into the future, underestimated, or simply overlooked.
But when we say yes without proper accounting for the liabilities they pile up, become due, spread us too thin, and water down our focus resulting in failure to achieve our most important goals.
Practical Tip: Identify and continually affirm your most important goals. Groups do this by establishing strategic plans, decision criteria, performance objectives, and other means. With every opportunity to say yes or no to new things, ask, “How does this help achieve what is most important?”
Practice saying things like: “That’s a good idea, I understand and appreciate your perspective, but that simply doesn’t fit with our priorities right now. Perhaps it could be addressed by someone else or at another time.”
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and other books, reminds us that great organizations have “piercing clarity” about what they want to achieve and “relentless discipline” to say no to diversions.
A way to say no is to have something more important to which you are saying yes.
– Craig Freshley