20 April 2006

Leadership and “Yes, however ...”

One of the most frustrating answers to a vision presented by a leader must be the "Yes, I see your point, however ...". This kind of leader probably is one who likes to tell others what, when and how it should be done. The leader who gets frustrated by the "Yes, however .." answer could try to find a seminar like the one organized by Intermediair and Denk Producties. A seminar that states that the person who answers with "Yes, however ..." thinks that problems are caused by others.
By the way a leader who thinks that the "Yes, but ..." answer should never reach his table, also thinks that the cause of his problems are others.
However if the leader sees the "Yes, that maybe so, but ..." as a starting point to discover each others ideas about the situation, has found an opening. You might use this answer to start a mutual conversation.
So the "Yes, if ..." reaction could be the start of a talk about both visions of the situation.

There is of course a simple reason why people answer with "Yes, however ...". Sometimes it is because they see that what is presented is old whine in new bags. Especially experienced employees will have this reaction to change and ask themselves of what use it is to change the looks, if the content stays the same. ("We're not selling cars here, is it?") And most of the time the new leaders are the ones who present old ideas as new. At those moments, experienced employees react with their "Yes, however ..." it is highly important for the new leader to listen instead of identifing himself with the presented ideas. So to speak: "You are not your vision."
This attitude however is rather difficult to achieve, if one has put a lot of effort in creating a balanced vision statement. The vision has become part of ones personal view of the world, and has incorporated itself into our personality. Disapproval of the vision with "Yes, however ..." first creates the feeling of an attack on ones personality. At such a moment one could forget that:
  1. The receiver needs to explore the vision to understand it and make it his own. As you have done yourself.
  2. You are not your vision.
  3. It is highly unprofessional to let ones emotions answer the emotions of others.
So what could be the best solution for a leader to answer the "Yes, but what if ...?" reaction? Start talking to people in the organization, that will directly be influenced by the new vision. That way they will get the chance to understand the ideas behind the vision. And they can start thinking of solutions to work with the new vision, once it needs to be implemented.

A lesser solution is to bring your vision, listen to the reactions of the others at the different levels people can react. Those reactions can be substantive, procedural, relational of emotional. We would most of all like substantive reactions, but every kind of reaction is justified. One can not assume to have the right, to decide for others how they should feel.

The worst solution is to present the vision and answer every "Yes, however ..." with "When are you going to act as a professional?" Because you not only say: "I think you and your emotions are unimportant." But you also say that the other is only a means to an end, which lowers yourself to the same level. In which you have created a precedent to be treated as a means to an end. Something a leader should not want.

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