This came up during the webcast last week when I was discussing what to say no to in order to stay focused and execute faster each quarter. I explained that, instead of having "Yes-Men/Women" on your team, you MUST develop your team to face the brutal facts and help your company say no to projects or ideas that may be good - but slow down what is the most important to the company.
Too many priorities leads to unfinished projects, missed deadlines, frustrated employees, etc. It is imperative that you create the top priorities and stay true to them. So, how do you make these decisions about top priorities? With a strong team that is able to come to the meeting and face the brutal facts. They also need to be "allowed" to say no! I was asked how to develop these "No-men/women" around you. Well, it is a process, not an event. You need to work your culture so that "No-Man/Women" seeds can be planted. The sooner you plant, water and care for your seeds, the sooner they will grow and be effective "No-Men/Women" for you.
As part of my process of developing my own "No-Men/Women", I shared with my team that I am human, and will most probably be annoyed when brutal facts are shared with me. I mean there is a reason why we call these "Brutal facts." They are probably really tough for us to digest. I shared with the team how I would rate our working relationship on a scale of 1-10:
1-2: If you are unwilling to share tough and brutal facts with me
3-5: If you share the brutal facts and back off if I get annoyed
6-7: If I get annoyed, and you have the courage to push past that and get me to discuss the brutal facts and possible solutions with you.
8-10: If you are able to push back even after me being annoyed multiple times, pushing me to look at the brutal facts and discuss possible solutions with you
By sharing the above scale, I demonstrated the importance of facing brutal facts together as a team and finding solutions. I also publicly gave everyone on my team permission to be a "No-Man/Women." This is an extremely important step for the CEO. You want to be approachable and give them an invitation to be heard. If this is not apparent, the team will treat you only as the boss and not as a person looking for the best solutions.
I would much rather have "No-Men/Women" around me who push back and take a stand, rather than "Yes-Men/Women" who may agree in the meeting, yet leave with no passion, no action, and lots of whining about the direction. This is not good for the team and absolutely not good for your company.
Fast growth companies are willing to grow "No-Men/Women" Are you?
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