Focus is saying NO

Leadership: How to Say ‘No’ While Also Inspiring People – Forbes

Steve Jobs says no many times

A big part of Steve Jobs’ success has been to shed all the good ideas that don’t make the final cut. Carmine Gallo in an interesting article, “Steve Jobs: Get Rid Of the Crappy Stuff” writes: “Editing also leads to great product designs and effective communications. According to Steve Jobs, ‘People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.’”

Imagine how much better our lives would be if all firms “got rid of the crappy stuff”.

How can a leader do it?

So what’s a leader to do? How does a leader practicing radical management say “no” while maintaining focus, enthusiasm and inspiration?

The trick of inspirational leadership is to use one of three, and only three, answers, when a follower proposes doing things differently:

1. “Yes!”: Ideally, of course, if the follower’s idea is a good one, the leader should embrace the idea with enthusiasm. That may not be the case. So the leader has to go to the second or third response.

2. ”Let’s explore” If the idea has promise, but the timing isn’t right, or if more work needs to be done on it before it can be implemented, a “let’s explore” answer can recognize the merit in the idea, while not allowing it to distract from higher priority action items. The item goes on the list of things to be explored, but it isn’t consigned to oblivion.

3. “What if?”: This answer involves the leader taking the trouble to understand the substantive merit behind the follower’s proposal and then come up with a better way of achieving the same result. There can then ensure an adult-adult conversation about the merits of the proposal.


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