Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Be a Yes Man? No Man.

Is what you want to hear different than what you need to hear? One of the biggest problems in business communications, is that too many people are out there screaming yes. We call them yes men. Yes offers immediate gratification and seems harmless at the time but often results in future peril. No requires discipline and the ability to think clearly. Yes is easy. No is hard.

People sabotage themselves on a daily basis by agreeing to the impossible or just hiding the hard truth. It is easy to view no as disappointing, letting someone down, not coming through or not being a problem solver. However, sometimes no is exactly the right answer.

Reasonable people shouldn't expect you to be perfect all the time but if they do, are those the type you want to sustain relationships with? The only thing people should expect of you is to live up to what you say you will do. By always saying yes, you are setting yourself up to let them down.

While I'm an advocate for the power of no, saying no and thinking no are two different things. If your propensity is always to please, you can still say no while thinking yes. Just because you can't personally produce for someone or tell them what they want to hear, doesn't mean you should leave it at that. Instead, try offering an alternative solution or recommending a competitor. People will grow to respect you more as a result.

As you gather with friends and family on this Thanksgiving, take a moment to remind yourself of the power no. Perhaps you can check out a classic Thanksgiving Day movie, Miracle on 34th Street, that certainly embraces this concept. One of the class scenes from that movie shows Kris Kringle, a Macy's store Santa Claus, sending a mother to the competitor Gimbels for a pair skates that her young daughter wants. Word of the generosity spreads like wildfire and Macy's ends up with even higher sales as a result of their new strategy to send customers to competitors if they don't have it.

Now Kris could have said yes and over-promised on something that he couldn't deliver on (after all, Santa Claus isn't real). He also could have simply said no and left the young girl very disappointed and sad. Instead he chose to truly provide the maximum value to the customer by saying no but thinking yes, I can still help. All people would do good to remember this timeless business principle that truly wins customers for life.