Finding the Strategic “Yes”

Business team celebrating a triumph with arms up

The Strategic “Yes” is a series of thoughtful questions aimed at converging your decision point with your company strategy and aligning it with the voices of your leaders and employees. In my career, I’ve participated in numerous conversations with leaders and decision-makers as they recounted how they arrived at their decision points. For the majority, their decision was based on thorough research and following best practices. While those are essential steps of due diligence and noble pursuits, there is an additional recommended guidance to finding the Strategic “Yes”. Using these Strategic “Yes” questions allows your company to continue its vetting process toward a healthier decision. When asked how you got to your Strategic “Yes”, you can detail your full due diligence journey to make your board, investors, partners, and employees more comfortable about the forward direction.First, we must talk about the Always “Yes”. Many articles have been written about positive and negative uses of the Always “Yes”. The Always “Yes'' philosophy (saying “Yes” to everything) is toxic positivity. This movement can dismantle company culture. For new companies, the Always “Yes” can bring remarkable success and help to refine the company strategy. Once your company has matured, the Always “Yes” will begin to damage your company’s soul, culture, and maybe reputation. Doing your due diligence and saying “Yes” strategically is critical to your credibility as a successful leader and building a healthy company culture.

Next, I have a question for you. Are you comfortable saying “No” to others? Saying “No” is not hard to do. Go ahead - say “No” out loud - right now. See! Saying “No” is not hard. It is a crucial part of growth and reflection. So why are you reluctant to do it? Don’t let the fear of the “No” cripple your truth or dismantle your company culture.

Many employees are challenged against saying “No” by leaders. Leaders still think “No” is a negative strategy from others to derail or reject their plans. Leaders rarely reward a “No” or acknowledge it consistently as part of a company decision-making conversation. I can count on one hand the times I said “No”, it was proven correct, and was praised by others.

All leaders must let the “No” be voiced in meetings and not silenced. Once the “No” is given a voice, it creates an open space for dialogue about how to move forward. Leaders should not let the “No” be heard, pretend it didn’t happen, and move on with the agenda or decision. Let the voices speak their truth with our censure. Open dialogue is part of your diligence.

For some, saying “No” at work is an impossible feat. Navigating company politics, company culture, and the politics of your role can make saying “No” or even disagreeing with leadership a death sentence. When leaders shoot down a vocalized “No” without listening and engaging in a complete discussion, this signals to employees that the company culture is a farce. Your actions speak volumes about and do more to represent your company culture than any of your written values, policies, or DEIA statements. The silencing of “No” perpetuates a groupthink mentality. Company culture prays at the alter of group think. Groupthink mentality forces contrary employees into an Unwilling “Yes”. Unless your company has a robust rock-solid culture where all employees are heard, respected, and valued always, groupthink is a manipulative and retaliatory company practice fostered by company leaders.

A homogeneous group can only innovate with agitators, architects, disrupters, and visionaries voicing their contrary opinion often and having safe forums to be heard with open dialogue. The perception and unhealthy response to going against the grain signals agitators, architects, disrupters, and visionaries their success or tenure at the company is tainted. When employees don’t feel safe and that their voice is protected - they leave. Silencing contributes to the turnover and loss of great talent and institutional knowledge. The company culture erodes as this becomes a consistent company practice, perception, unwritten rule, or policy.

You can not say “Yes” to everyone, every partnership, and every decision. This is unhealthy for the organization. Leaders must say a Strategic “Yes” to grow the organization. How do you get to a Strategic “Yes”?

Below is a guide to get to a more Strategic “Yes”. Does this:

  • align with your mission?
  • align with your strategic plan?
  • make sense for your organization and its current product and service delivery?
  • allow your organization to start a new business unit, grow its capacity, or scale healthily?
  • move your company closer to achieving your vision, big goal, or healthily pivot the business?

I refer to “healthily” for you to consider how this decision will impact your bottom line, leaders, and employees. It should work for everyone. Consistently practicing a Strategic “Yes” takes practice. It is hard work - put in the effort. It will change your company and evolve your leadership style. If your answers to the above questions are not a “Yes” in the majority, this is not a Strategic “Yes”. You are not being strategic in your decision and might be a Strategically “No”! After performing this full due diligence, you may have more in common with the Strategic “No” than you realize.

Finally, besides the guidance above, do a gut check, smell test, check in with your feelings, or consult your intuition - whichever resonates with you. If your gut screams “No”, please listen to its cries. Don’t ignore it - reflect on what makes you uneasy. Sometimes to get to a true answer - you need some distance. You must re-evaluate if your intuition and Strategic “Yes” are conflicting. If that is the case, take the time you need to reflect. You should trust your gut instincts - that inside guiding voice - to aid you in getting to a Strategic “Yes”.

If the conflict continues, especially when your inner voice is a loud “no”, walk away. Walking away can be temporary. It may be the wrong partner, time for your company, or it could damage your employees and culture. There may be a similar opportunity in the future that will be a better fit and a true Strategic “Yes”.

Use this Strategic “Yes” guidance, consulting your intuition, and balancing those with the other voices at the decision-making table. If you are still struggling or need additional guidance, contact us at Pensivetastic. Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. We’ll help you get there.

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