Be Honest: Do You Say Yes Anyway?
I was having an interesting conversation yesterday with an association executive about the phenomenon of trying to say yes to everyone. It seems to be a common occurrence in the association world. We say yes to everyone, and then figure out later how to make it happen.
I wrote about the fallacy of trying to please everyone in the Always Done It That Way book, which is similar. Trying to please everyone doesn’t work. Some times you are simply going to have to say no to a constituency, and they will be unhappy.
And fundamentally I think that is what we are trying to avoid. We don’t like to make people unhappy. This is true at the organizational level, as well as at the personal level (at least for some of us). I know personally that I have a great challenge in saying no to people. I love to say yes, and I don’t want the conflict that will show up if I tell someone no.
But honestly, I have done some reflecting on that situation, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a big myth. True, when you tell people no, they may get unhappy. But I just don’t think it is as bad as we assume it will be. That group of vocal members that wants you to do something that is not in the best interests of the organization? Yep, when you tell then no, they will be unhappy. But the world won’t end.
And, more importantly, something else happens when you tell them no. You are being strong. You are being clear. You are taking your world right into theirs and engaging them. They may not like your answer right now, but the cumulative effect of acting strongly, clearly, and with intention should not be underestimated.
Saying yes may please people, but it also tends to make you invisible. I’ve heard association people say that’s a good thing. It’s the members’ organization, after all. We staff should be in the background. Background is okay, but you can still see the background! You know it’s there and you know what it looks like. Background is different than invisible. In fact, I think we should start thinking more clearly about how we say yes, so we can do so with strength and intention.
Whatever you do, you need to show up.