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Leading with your “Yes”

Leadership We had a great Friday night planned. Homemade pizza for dinner followed by watching a movie and eating popcorn on the couch. But the most remarkable part of the night wasn’t in the plan.

With the last morsel of pizza still in her mouth, our 20-month-old daughter snatched up her translucent pink plate and pressed it against her face. Through her squished nose she asked the world, “Where’s Lucy?” Not waiting for an answer, she ripped the plate down and screamed, “There she is!” before dissolving in a cascade of giggles.

Her 3-year-old brother immediately joined in, pressing his translucent green plate against his face and adding, “and where’s Luke?” At this point what’s any self-respecting adult to do? Of course, in no time Sarah and I had crummy plates pressed against our faces.

After a few rounds of this new game, Luke announced (to no one in particular), “I need to have a dance party.” He then turned to me and asked, “May I have excuse me’s, please?” I had barely answered before he was telling Sarah, “Mommy, I need a hat.” Of course he did. We all needed hats.

In a matter of minutes the kitchen table was moved and the four of us—all with different hats and instruments—were dancing to Bobby Day‘s Rockin’ Robin. After three or four songs we wound down the party and got ready to watch the movie. The whole thing took 15 minutes at most, and we all loved it.

What does this story have to do with leadership?

As a leader you need to have your “Yes” at the ready. Whether it’s an idea from a rookie, a suggestion from a customer, or a smart business opportunity that comes your way, if you’re not open and available, you—and your team—might miss out on something great. It doesn’t mean you always will say “yes”, it just means you have to be ready to say yes.

To do that you’ll have to intentionally fight against two staunch supporters of the status quo, namely: “That’s just not the way we do it around here” and “That’s not what we had planned.”

I’ll be honest, as a parent, when my kids were playing with their plates a part of me was thinking, Oh, that’s not right. I can’t let them think this is appropriate behavior. The easy choice would be to squash the fun. The harder choice is to show my kids that sometimes silliness is appropriate and other times it isn’t—and to help them learn to discern the difference. It’s more work, but it’s also much more rewarding!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about leading with a No, but until then…

Where is your default answer a NO? Are you ready to entertain saying YES?

  1. March 21, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Geoff, good lesson.

    This is a positive analogy. I equate leadership to skydiving and it begins after you’ve jumped. You’ve got to guide your fall. The goal is to land at the target destination, but the wind influences your fall. You have to know when the wind changes to help or hinder your fall and the necessary countermeasures. As a leader, you’ve got to know how to guide the fall and when to steer harder or not.

    There is a point when you reach critical mass and the organization can no longer take on more. It is at those points that leadership is tested. There may not be the time, staffing, equipment to do a thing. Then there is a shifting. You prioritize important activities (a dance party), sacrificing others (not enough time to finish the movie) or delaying an activity.

    My answer is always yes, and through discussion, planning and implementation it may become a no. But hardly ever is it no on the outset, and can always be chalked up to lessons learned.

    My brother, mother and I played that song until the cassette tape tore. And one of the greatest lessons my mother taught us: There is a time and a place for everything. Then we bought another tape.

    • March 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      thanks for stopping by, Matt. I love the skydiving analogy. Mainly because shifting winds are hard to perceive when you’re racing toward the earth at terminal velocity! it’s so easy to loose sight of our target.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Bob Goff
    March 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Geoffrey,
    Thanks a bunch for the note. I just got back from Uganda and yours was one of the first I looked at. Tried to DM you but it didnt go through. You are a great encourager. Loved reading you posts.

    • March 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      Wow, Bob, thanks! From what I read in “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” you’re the king of leading your family with a “yes”. Thanks for all the inspiration! Glad you liked the blog.

      Hey everyone, I encourage you to head over to http://www.restoreinternational.org/ to see what Bob’s been up to.

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