How To Stop Saying No To Ideas

Experience is a wonderful thing; it provides leaders with the ability to analyze a large amount of variables in short order while simultaneously arriving at a decision with a reliable degree certainty that it is indeed the best course of action. After a certain career threshold, this skill becomes a second skin, you wear it so comfortably that you don’t give it another thought. But how often do you take the time to think about what let you develop that ability? Odds are, it wasn’t due to mentors and managers shutting down your ideas at every turn; instead, you made mistakes and learned the most valuable lessons by doing something firsthand.

Adaptistration People 001For those of you who are far enough along in your career that you’re in the position of being the one to say yes or no to ideas, the next step is making sure you’re doing what you can to impart experience based decision making skills to future administrators. To that end, one useful habit is learning to identify times when using connecting language becomes more valuable than a quick “no.”

For example, consider saying something along the lines of:

I’m torn; on one hand you want to [reaffirm the idea] but on the other, [insert your experience driven quantifier that supports a “no” decision]. How can we avoid these bear traps?

The real challenge is making sure this process doesn’t help build employee experience at the sake of falling short on institutional objectives. The goal here is to help foster an engaged, productive work environment while simultaneously improving a genuine sense of stakeholdership and positive morale. In the best case scenario, you’ll also refine your own experience thanks to updating your frame of reference to a contemporary environment.

In the end, no one is asking you to go full blown touchy-feely every time an idea crosses your path but if your default behavior is shaking your head and puckering up to say “no” before someone is even finished pitching an idea, you’re probably a good candidate for taking a step back and considering this approach.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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