How to Lead with a “Yes and” Mindset…without Overpromising

Saying yes too often to too many projects can often lead you down the wrong path toward overcommitting and underdelivering. For a leader, bad form can frustrate your team and give you a bad reputation. How can you show eagerness to lead by accomplishing great things without overpromising? Let us introduce you to the Yes and approach. 

What is Yes and?

Saying “yes” doesn’t mean you always agree with what is being said. It’s easy to mistake the yes and mindset for always being willing to do everything. But saying yes with the caveat “and” helps clarify and put a bookend on what you’re ready to handle. If you add the caveat “and” instead of “but,” you’ll continue the positivity in a way that says, “I hear you.”

Take a situation where an employee asks for more money. Instead of saying, “No, we can’t do that,” try, “Yes, I hear that you need to make more money.” The employee may become frustrated and upset by a flat refusal on the spot to give them what they ask. Saying “Yes” and adding a caveat that acknowledges their request will somewhat smooth the waters. So, you’re not saying “Yes and” but instead using the “Yes” to confirm the thought and then using the qualifying “and” statement to let the employee know you’re hearing them.

Saying, “Yes, but” will shut the entire conversation down almost as if you gave a flat, “Nope.” Imagine a developer who wants to rewrite a complete application in a more modern language. Instead of saying absolutely not, that’s too much work, or somehow pushing away the suggestion, imagine how much better the dev would feel if you came back with, “Yes, I understand why you want to eliminate technical debt by writing the platform from scratch. Let me think about that for a moment, look at the budget, and talk with you again about your idea.”

In that scenario, the knowledge worker isn’t placated, necessarily, but instead acknowledged to have an idea worth considering. Isn’t that what every employee wants? To hear, openly acknowledge, and affirm an employee’s thought makes you a better leader. You can do this without agreeing to the suggestion or request using the “Yes and” technique.

You can even use this technique to give an immediate answer. Take the employee asking for more money. You can say something like, “Yes, I totally get that you need to make more money. Unfortunately, the budget doesn’t make raises an option right now. How about you and I sit down and brainstorm to figure out what to do here?” This is a great approach that shows the employee you value them but have secondary constraints that keep the company from honoring their request. However, you’re willing to work with your valued employee to figure out what to do. (Hint: Perhaps the answer is a more flexible schedule option or some other kind of perk instead of a raise.)

The point is that leaders have options beyond just saying “Yes.” You can apply this technique to everything from task management to employee relations. It’s a useful tool for almost any situation.

Blackstone Talent Group believes in you and your efforts to be a better leader. Call on our team if you need talent or if you’re considering a career move. We can help.

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