Yesterday, inspired by a session at #EMENAcomm, I shared my tips on how to say no.
Once the conference ended, I was invited to dinner with some of the speakers. Over drinks and lovely Indian food at the Maharaja restaurant, the subject of saying no and negotiating your time came up again.
“There isn’t a team in the world that can take on all the work, all the time” Zanya, a brilliant agency owner from Belarus confessed, “So saying no is a skill few of us master in time.”
So these two articles are an attempt to share what I’ve learned and maybe sparking so culinary adventures in my readers.
Part 1 covered the beginning of a meal:
• appetisers which are simple and easy to use approaches,
• main courses, or slightly more robust sophisticated ways to say no.
They all respond to two questions:
How do you say ‘no’ without annoying your customer or stakeholder (internal or external)?
How do you manage your time effectively so that you are focusing on the right things, at the right time, for the right result?
For those who want a bit extra, I’ve pulled together a couple of advanced tactics.
They come with a warning: Don’t eat too often from this part of the menu! These are more controversial and slightly riskier.
This is a polite version of ‘computer says no’. It goes like this, “I know you have asked for X, but our system can only do it in this way. So this is the normal output. I wish I had time to produce a super customised report for you, but this standard format has all the info you need.”
Let them ask for the output but you define how it is to be generated. Produce the analysis in a way that is convenient for you. You can do this under the guise of ‘Normal’ above.
What happens if you just say ‘no”? Will we end up in court? Will our most valued employees leave? Will part of our organization fail to achieve its objectives? Will part of our strategy miss the mark? Will you get fired? Think about the consequences … you might be surprised at how small they are.
Sometimes the problem will go away. I find this a lot with emails when I am on holiday or on a site visit. Sometimes, when I get back the issue has resolved itself, or the person managed without whatever it was that was oh-so urgent. Of course, this tactic doesn’t always work: sometimes they will come back and chase you … in which case you need to switch tactics (“so sorry I never got back to you! mea culpa”).
Like I said, these are more controversial so use them with care.
Remember to go back to your personal stakeholder map so you ensure you have enough reputation points in the bank to take a risky gamble.
And remember, practice makes perfect so try out these techniques in low-risk situations too. So you feel at ease with each course of the meal, and maybe you can even whip up a dessert of your own.
Simulations and role-playing are a perfect way to flex your negotiation muscles. When you play Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders, you get to put yourself in my shoes and learn how I say no to Buck, Isobel and Marua from time to time. So consider joining us for a game.
Do you have any other strategies? Please do share!
I’m all ears at @carmenspinoza11