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The man from Del Monte - he say “no”!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

It’s a classic statement (but how often is it really true?) that people at the top of organisations say that they don’t want to be surrounded by “yes men”. Recently, I’ve had experience of the real-world situation faced by many managers - the team member who’s instant response to most things is a “no”.

There are many, varied, and differently-legal, approaches to dealing with this situation, but the one that we tried in the most recent case was to genuinely value having someone around who would say no. This required two sides to a working agreement:

1) The manager would listen to the “no” in detail, ask for clarification, and seek to gain a full understanding of the “no” man’s position. This meant that they had to put their “I’m in charge” hat away for a period of time, and act as if the team member was a valuable, challenging, business consultant.

2) The “no” man had to agree that, in return for having his views taken carefully into consideration, once a decision had been taken, he would back that decision fully, especially in front of the rest of the organisation.

By consulting with the team member before ideas and decisions were pitched more broadly, they were both dramatically improved and refined before being aired, and, once the decision was made, it was vastly easier to get the whole team behind it.

The obvious side-benefit was a blossoming of the relationship between the two individuals concerned, and a massive reduction in stress.

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