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Just say “No” to the “Yes Folks”

June 30, 2010

Who is the worst employee a Manager will ever deal with?  It’s those with a vocabulary problems.  “No” and “Maybe, but let me check on that” don’t seem to be phrases they know of.  Who are they?  The “Yes Folks“.

At first glance, they might seem like a Manager’s dream staffers – someone who never gives you a hard time every time you make a request, who appears to treat your every wish as a command.  Someone who never has a different – or better – idea.  But, is this who your really want on your team?  [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

Ineffective Leaders surround themselves with the familiar, the comfortable – and people who think exactly like they do.  In other words, the Yes Folks.  These Employees tell the Boss whatever he or she wants to hear, withhold any negative information.  Don’t know about you, but I need that information, without being sugar-coated, and I need it early so we, as a team, can deal with it.

The best Leaders seek out those who think differently, and they encourage/demand creativity, ideas, and innovation from their staff members.  If everyone agrees with you all the time due to fear, or rejection, how will you hear of any new ideas?  If you only have Yes Folks around you all the time, you can’t improve … you won’t improve!

Another problem with rewarding Yes Folks is they stifle everyone else in the group from contributing honest opinions.  I want honesty.  I need honesty.  Bright, and talented employees start believing that the only way to get ahead is to also become a Yes Person, then performance becomes secondary.  They will become reluctant to voice their point of view, and won’t bother to bring up any suggestions that don’t perfectly agree with those of the boss.

I’m a firm believer in “Managing by Walking Around,” and I get some of my best advice out on the shop floor talking to people.  I figure why not engage the ones who will be implementing my ideas in the near future.  They know how things could be improved on far better than I do, and most of them will tell it like it is.  I like that!  🙂

Sometimes, you need to draw out their opinion about an issue until you have the best answer to an issue.  Try saying, “What do you think”?  This engages your team.  Reassure your team that there are no negative consequences for having an opinion that is very different from yours.

Your main task as a Leader is to establish a company culture in which constructive dissent is encouraged, and ideas can be challenged.  This is the only way to ensure imagination, new thinking, and the quickest path to success.  I like to use humor when I accuse someone of not being a team player, just because he or she didn’t happen to agree with you.  It’s like saying, yes, I understand that you disagreed with me, and it’s ok.

And while you’re at it, ask yourself how you operate with your own Upper Management or Board of Directors.  If you are told to do something that you know will head the company in the wrong direction, or you have a better idea, do you just go with the flow by keeping your thoughts to yourself?  Sure, it’s disheartening to see Yes Folks get promoted, and receive preferential treatment, but is that really the best way to operate?  I say no, but you must be delicate as to the timing, and delivery of your idea as well.

There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, and having a professional discussion when there’s a decision to be made.  When issues are talked about openly, and honestly with the best interests of the company in mind, you’re bound to come up with a great solution.  And, if you present your ideas in a pleasant, non-threatening manner, Upper Management should be more than willing to hear what you have to say.  But, once the Boss makes a decision, then it’s time to get on board, and support it without further dissent.

The ability to discuss in a positive, respectful way can only help you.  You will encounter people whose opinions differ from yours.  And, that’s ok.

The world will always be filled with Yes Folks, but it’s the smart Manager who can admit they don’t know it all, and have the self-confidence to listen to their ideas.

The Moral of the Story is:  Just say “no” to the “Yes folks”, and say “yes” to the “No Folks”.

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