Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The power of saying no

I like to call myself an idea person. I am one of those people who will wake up at 3 AM with a fully formed idea stuck behind my eyeballs. Often, I share these ideas with friends and family to see which ones stick like cooked spaghetti or, alternately, which ones bounce like a big rubber ball. I keep presenting ideas to these people because I know two things. First, they will be absolutely honest. Second, they will not be swayed by my own personal excitement or emotional investment. These are signs of a truly good consultant.

A Growing Field

It seems like there are new consultants every day, doesn't it? There are a lot of Social Media consultants. There are business consultants, new business consultants, marketing consultants. Lots of expertise, lots of specialties. These people, in order to grow their consulting business, have to be very positive, energized, upbeat, and they have to always demonstrate that they are expanding their knowledge base. They are after the case studies, the testimonials. They are after big risks that pay off. Such is the stuff dreams are made of.

How can you tell a flower from a weed?

Lately, there have been a lot of questions circulating about who exactly should be using this or that new tool, whether it's technology or Social Media or something else. New tools and new technology are extremely exciting. Trying new things is like an adventure. It's like embarking on a journey on the Oregon Trail. We are in an era of "go forth, person!" You should be trying things, you should be inventing new things.

I agree with all of this to a point, but there's an often overlooked caveat. 

Sometimes, trying a new tool or a new technology doesn't make a wit of sense for you or your company. Sometimes the adventure can have serious, dangerous ramifications.

To me,  the difference maker today among consultants would be the person who thoughtfully analyzes your unique situation and says, as my friends often say to me, "You are out of your mind for even thinking about trying this."

Saying no can be a real buzz kill. It can mean delaying a business opportunity. It can trample someone's excitement. It can be disappointing. But it can also be wise, analytical, and customized to a particular situation. It also creates a relationship where a "yes," especially an emphatic yes, is not taken for granted. It builds trust.

It's okay to say no or "maybe later"

There are a few things right now that seem to necessitate an affirmation. "Should I join Facebook?" Of course!! "Should my business invest in mobile apps?" Yeah, yesterday!! I think sometimes these positive responses are given because we are being told that those are the correct responses. But there are actually situations where a company Facebook page might not make sense. There might be an individual who would not benefit from a Twitter account even though Twitter is the hottest thing ever. If you are a consultant, it's okay to say no to your clients. If you are running things yourself, it's okay to say no to the big trends and out-of-control buzzwords. In fact, I just might advise that you say yes to saying no.

Have you said no to something lately? It may not be as exciting as saying yes, but it could be more meaningful.

Image by Colin Brough. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ColinBroug


dannybuntu said...

For me, saying no is an art and sometimes more important than saying yes. I've seen the movie "Yes man" and sometimes adhere to its tenets. The limitations that present themselves can be quite daunting and even obscure at times.

Alas, with limited resources and funding, I've had to say NO as artfully as I can. Doing so ensures my survival and preserves the perception of the "me" by other people.

Real Life Mad Man said...

Thanks, Danny. Exactly right, "no" needs to be said carefully and with thought, just like yes. No one likes a person who just shoots everything down. But these days, sometimes no is refreshing :)

Thanks for popping by!