Just Say No….the Right Way

I know that in my last post, it was about saying “Yes….if….”  That post was referring to getting mindsets to change around ideas.  The object was to get people involved in the improvement process with a positive can-do attitude.

In order to get some things done well, sometimes you have to say ‘No.’  Jeff Hajek had a great post about it over at the Leanblog (and check out his blog too) a few weeks ago.  Jeff discussed saying no to barriers, excuses, projects, complacency, variation and barriers.  I couldn’t have agreed with Jeff more.

As I reflected on the post, the two that really hit home with me are saying no to projects and saying no to excuses.  It is important to be able to say no to projects, because if you are overloaded with work, then either nothing will get done or if it does get done, it won’t be as thorough as you might like it to be.  So the question is how do you say no to projects to your boss?  I have had to do this several times over my career.  The two ways that have worked best for me is using data or using the long term strategy plan.

There would be times when my boss would come to me in a complete emotional state about a problem and tell me to solve it.  I would wait a couple of hours (so he could cool down) and I would approach him with the data.  I would mention his problem that he brought to me (based off complete emotion) might only save the company $5,000 while the current problem I was working on could save the company $100,000 (actual example).  He would agree for me to continue working on the current $100,000 problem and forget the $5,000 problem.  Resources are limited and I don’t know of too many managers that want to minimize the use of those resources.

Another way I have said no to my boss, is by using the management staff’s long term strategy plan.  If I see the issue is something that doesn’t align with the long term plan or this year’s short term plan to make gains on the long term plan, I would ask about it.  After some discussion (sometimes even taking it to the entire senior staff) we would come to a resolution.

What about the manager who says do it all?!  They don’t care about the workload.  Two things here: first in most of my experiences a workload discussion with my manager upfront about what taking on too much might do has resulted in very good dialogue and a resolution that we both could live with.  Second, if your manager does not want to have a discussion and just commands and controls the situation, that is not showing a respect for people and you might need to ask if this a repeated behavior because it might cause you to think about things differently.  I had a manager like that before and I had to make the decision to switch positions so I didn’t report to him anymore.

Saying ‘No’ is key to having success, but so is how you say no so you don’t destroy relationships.

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Posted on July 23, 2010, in Leadership, Problem Solving and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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