A LITTLE THING THAT MATTERS —-
In two other articles in this series on the little things that matter — and which can make a big difference for a manager — I addressed the importance of acknowledging accomplishments big and small, and of leveling with folks about the way things really are. In this article, I turn my attention to providing people with A Simple Yes of No.
I can not recall a single book on good management and leadership that did not extol the virtue of being decisive. The best of breed managers generally have the courage of their own convictions and a willingness to make the BIG calls and decisions regardless of the consequences that may occur. But on any given day, few managers make the sort of big, weighty decisions that will make or break a company, change their organizational structure or working processes, or allow them to grasp or reject a big opportunity.
On the other hand, most managers are called upon to make a great many SMALL decisions on most days that do have significant importance to those who ask that they be made. So let’s look at this issue from the vantage point of the requester.
Whether the request for a decision comes from a subordinate, colleague, or superior, it usually takes one of several simple forms. Can I do this or not? Is this what you want? Is this OK with you? Do I have your permission? Would you like? Moreover, if they have asked you for an answer, it is safe to assume that your answer is important to them. Because this is about work, what they are usually seeking is a timely and simple YES or No. Is that what you give them?
This may seem like a small matter but many of us unconsciously have difficulty being that precise. Answers like possibly, perhaps, let me think about it, I’m not sure, or I’ll get back to you, tend to leave the questioner in the dark. Moreover, if your yes or no is critical to some action they must or desire to take, indecisiveness can have a negative impact on individual performance or how effectively an organization functions.
An individual’s difficulty responding with a simple yes or no, often is a product of personal temperament and may have roots in an individual’s underlying psychological dynamics. Nevertheless, in a chronic form, it is often extremely frustrating in a manager.
Recalling my own frustrating experiences with requests that died a slow death in some boss’s proverbial inbox, I have often counseled employees confronted with a “yes-or-no-adverse” boss to find ways to force their hand. My favorite approach was to make it clear that I intended to do something on a date — or at a time — specific, if I did not receive a no. But the best managers are loath to force others to design strategies for working around them.
While a simple yes or no response is more difficult for some managers than others, the best managers understand the importance of prompt responses to the questions and requests put to them, and they endeavor to provide them. If an issue requires further discussion, they engage in it as soon as possible. If an issue requires some further thought, they explain the reason why, make a point to get their thinking done quickly, and they respond sooner rather than later.
Above all, the best managers are aware that a simple and timely yes or no from a manager does matter to the individual seeking it, and that it has a direct impact on how well the manager’s organization operates. Procrastination, on the other hand, has a stifling impact on individuals and organizations alike.