If you’ve owned a business of any size, you’ve been in more than one situation where your gut said yes and your mouth said no, or vice versa. Sometimes, it can seem like an ongoing illness, like a syndrome that you no longer have power over—you become so used to uttering “YES” or “NO” to every question that befalls you that it may have come to the point where people in your employ don’t even bother to ask you about anything anymore.
It works in two directions. If you’re the “no” guy, your employees won’t ask questions because they either already know the answer is no, or because they have been told no so many times that they feel taken for granted or intimidated. Their opinion means nothing, therefore questions they might ask you based on their point of view no longer hold any meaning to you—in their minds. This means you’re creating a company culture where potentially amazing ideas from employees and interns could be going unmentioned—you’re losing the connection with innovative minds when they fear you rather than respect you.
The other scenario, the “yes” guy, may often find himself in a situation where employees are assuming left and right that whatever they decide is going to be okay with you—whether that means being late everyday or hanging Christmas lights in your Kosher deli without asking for your permission first. While your employees may have phenomenal ideas, if they aren’t running them by you first, it could create disaster. The “yes” guy can strap it on by calling weekly meetings to discuss ideas rather than allowing a company culture of chaos where every idea is all over the map—communal ideas, brainstorming, and groupthink are all great things—just make sure they’re happening as a group with you at the helm, not locked in your office while the staff tweets coupon codes, offer Facebook specials, or decide to Instagram photos of the office pizza party. None of these are bad ideas per se, but with bad timing, no management, and the small business owner or manager checked out, the aftermath is unpredictable, impossible to measure, and can’t be organized well.
As a business manager who is present both physically and mentally, you can check in at weekly meetings. When you’re presented with a development that you haven’t made a decision on, listen to your staff. Brainstorm on the spot, and when you’ve come up with a conclusive answer, let the credit fall to them. But ultimately, create options for them to choose from for execution.
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For example, let’s say you love your social media team’s idea to tweet about how you’ll be open on Small Business Saturday, but you’re not in love with the fact that the proper name of the event is associated with American Express. Offer the option to mention the idea using different words, and give them a set number of times you’ll allow them to hashtag the keyword phrase “#SmallBusinessSaturday”—invite them to email or text you with ideas for other competitive keywords that have a similar connotation. This empowers them, and once their ideas are in front of you, the final choice is in your hands. This creates a company culture of openness, better communication, shows that you are a leader who listens, while also establishing who is in charge in a non-confrontational way.
Being assertive instead of aggressive will always engender results in the best interest of the company as a whole as well as the wellbeing of your employees, which you will likely find reduces your employee turnover rate. When people like their boss, they like coming to work. When they like being at work, they do a better job of caring for customers—happiness, more money, and an environment where patrons feel at ease. It pretty much sounds like Christmas. And all it takes is an attitude adjustment.
And of course, there’s always the caveat. Sometimes you will have to choose a firm NO as a business manager/owner. Make sure you’re not coming across as an angry parent with a response like, “Because I said so!” Explain respectfully and concisely why you have chosen to say no to a specific project or idea, and put the ball back in the court of your team: “I can’t say yes to that guys, but I like how you’re all thinking. Keep brainstorming and feel free to email me new ideas on this.” Comments like that make all the difference, and make your staff feel they are an integral part of the decision making process, even when the answer is no.
Infographic via: GPS Strategies