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A boss yells into a megaphone while a worker cowers at a desk. (Ferran Traite Soler/iStockphoto)
A boss yells into a megaphone while a worker cowers at a desk. (Ferran Traite Soler/iStockphoto)

The Manager

How to say no - and still inspire Add to ...

Good leaders need to say no to bad or distracting ideas. On the Forbes blog, consultant Steve Denning points out that Apple chief Steve Jobs says no endlessly, deflecting ideas that won't help his products, but still manages to inspire his staff. If you can't enthusiastically say yes to a new idea, Mr. Denning suggests these two are the only other responses you should give:

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"Let's explore" If the idea has promise but the timing isn't right or more work is needed to make the notion work, you can recognize the merit in the idea while not allowing it to distract from higher priority items by suggesting it be explored. The idea remains alive, rather than being consigned to oblivion.



"What if?" Take time to fully understand the idea, rather than simply brushing it off, and offer a better way to achieve the same result. That opens a discussion on how best to proceed.



In some cases, the idea will end up not going anywhere, and it might have been quicker to just say no. But Mr. Denning says that while abruptly saying "no" appears to save time in the short run, every instance where a follower's spirit is crushed by a quick "no" requires many subsequent efforts to rebuild morale. "'No" can thus be a very expensive word to use. If a leader can maintain focus without having to say "no," the gains to the work will be major, he writes.

 

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