Do you lead a YES culture?

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 2.19.45 PMEvery company has their “no” person. You know them. They are the person you avoid  at all cost. At one of my first jobs our IT manager was known as “Dr.No”. I’m not sure if anyone even knew his real name. No matter what you asked he always said no. Before getting to a yes you had to listen to a litany of reasons why what you have requested was impossible. Your Dr. No’s are destructive to productivity. Their pessimistic approach holds back progress and innovative thinking.

As leaders we know the NO people are unhealthy for our organization. We actively seek out to mitigate their negative impact. Yet, in our prospecting we often force our potential customers to become NO people.  We ask them for things they are not ready to give. We encourage them to tune out, to stop listening, and to come up with a list of reasons to do anything but say YES.

  1. A sales person interrupts a buyer to whom they have never spoken before and asks them to attend a demo. The buyer can’t even spell your company name, let alone know what your product does.
  2. Our trade show staff approaches, scanner in hand, and asks to capture your information before even introducing themselves
  3. The video advertisement we placed interrupts the link you clicked  and has nothing to do with the content you were planning to watch

In all of these cases we are asking for someone’s time. And in all of these cases we are encouraging a “NO”.

Instead, we should be creating a YES culture by giving would be buyers a reason to say YES.

For example, when I’m working at a trade show before I jump into a pitch I always ask people what they found interesting at the event so far. “How has the conference been for you today? What was the most interesting thing you learned?” This gives me some insight into what is important to the visitor, and how they respond tells me a lot about their personality. Then when I talk about myself I try to relate it to what they just told me about their day.  It works a lot better than setting myself up for a “No” by asking  “would you like to see a demo?”.

Turning the conversation to yes is not always easy but it is always worth it.


  1. This reminds me of something I think we both did our the past (in some of the same meetings): instead of a no or yes, there is the “yes, and …” which is a very powerful way of bringing people with you into a new area of conversation. This works better when you know the people (colleagues, friends, etc) but it is a very effective way of continuing a dialog.

    • Alison, I agree with you that having trust aids the process. We were fortunate to have such willing participants. I have also seen assuming YES help build trust where it had been broken by past actions. That is more rare sadly, but at least possible.