Years ago I had a great woman work for me who anchored my management team.
She had all the skills and industry knowledge, and even filled in for my position years prior when there was a temporary vacancy. I had a great working relationship with her and got to know her family fairly well.
She had one potentially fatal flaw; she always said “yes” to whatever I said or proposed.
One day I had to ask her why she always agreed with me. She said she believed in what I came up with and had great ideas.
I told her, “We don’t need two of me, do we? I need you to be yourself, and want you to have a differing view from time to time, as I know you do have them. I will always accept another viewpoint, and because of your knowledge, I need your input to not only have us see all angles, but to help me stay sharp and humble as well. Can I get your commitment that you will offer another viewpoint from time to time?” She agreed, obviously.
Over time she started to feel more comfortable in giving new input, and her contributions to the team became even more noted because of her willingness to offer her viewpoints.
“Yes” people become that for a variety of reasons such as insecurity, fear, uncertainty, politics, or other agendas. But whatever the reason, a good leader will challenge their team to challenge the status quo and give their differing opinions.
Having a culture of not taking “yes” for an answer can strengthen an organization for the following reasons:
- It fosters increased innovation and creativity
- It provides a check-and-balance system
- It ensures everyone has a voice in the vested outcome
- It promotes teamwork and buy-in
- It allows everyone to know the challenges ahead and prepare the best course of action
- It helps people feel relevant and valued in the company
Provided you set a culture of constructive dissenting viewpoints, not taking “yes” for an answer can lead to seeing actions from every possible angle in order to become more effective in achieving your team’s goals.
Encourage (yes, encourage) your people to not be “yes persons.” Value their input, seek out their voice, and help them realize the vision of the organization through the unique individual talents that they were hired for.
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Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership, strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.