In positions of leadership it is often inferred that saying “no” to something reflects negatively.  It sends the signal that your magic wand is broken and that you have been forced off the yellow brick road.  Perhaps you are unable to find a color to slide down on the rainbow of success.  Maybe you are forced to project your pessimism by inferring that something can’t or shouldn’t be done.  “No” for many people cause them to be viewed as “glass half empty” minds. This less than favorable outlook carries with it a stigma that most folk will run from as if it is the plague.  For those struggling to find a way to provide realistic feedback and manage expectations without using no I’m here to help you today.  Leaders must begin to look at their responses in a strategic and well thought out manner.  Our words have power and our positions influence the decision making and attitudes of those up and down the food chain.  Your “no” could signal alarm, agony, or defeat that sets the rest of the organization in an uproar or conversely have them breathing a collective sigh of relief.  In contrast your “yes” could do the same.  Everyone wants a “make it happen” kind of spirit to lead the troops and push them to new levels of success and productivity. But, as much as that sounds good, a well placed “no” can do the same thing.  Its just like we learned long ago, its not what you say is HOW you say it.  Here are some strategies to use when “no” is necessary:

1.  Offer an alternative – There is more than one way to get something done. Perhaps the concept as a whole may not be feasible but there may be elements of it that can be used to bring about the desired outcome.

2. Do your homework. Many times our first reaction may be “no” but after more thought and consideration we can figure out a way to make something work.  Don’t be too hasty to refute or reject something.  The person offering the solution could easily become offended and this could affect morale if you have to work with or take direction from this person int he future.

3. Call in the reinforcements. It may be “your call” but getting feedback from others could help you decide whether “no” is the right answer.  Leaders are usually in good company with seasoned professional, subject matter experts or peers who can offer their wisdom to aid in sound decision making.

4. Make sure you understand the question or the instruction.  Many times people ask one question but really want an answer to something totally different.  Investigate and ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what is being posed so that the response you craft addresses the real issues.  You could be thinking “no” on the surface but after some digging you find out that “yes” is quite possible.

5.  Delay but don’t deny.  Often times deferring a “no” to a later date or after certain milestones have been reached or evaluated is very effective.  Try to calm down the sense of urgency.  The decision to say yea or nay may be better determined once other events take place.  Explain the rationale for delaying a decision and share the benefits of doing so.

5. Say it!  There are times when we just have to give the right answer even when it is “no.”  Now when you have to say “no” be armed with information to support this decision making.  You don’t want to be viewed as a person who couldn’t back up their decision with substantive data.  Be prepared to speak intelligently to the decision to say “no” to something.