I’d almost always rather hear “No” than hear “I don’t know.”
Don’t misunderstand. I love when a leader admits they don’t know something. I believe every leader has something to learn and should learn first from their team.
But, I have strong contentment against hearing “I don’t know” when the real answer has already been decided—and the answer is NO!
A coward says “I don’t know” when they already know their answer is no.
When you know the answer is no, tell me no.
In my experience, weak leaders use phrases like:
“Let me think about it”—which really means, I’m too scared right now to let you know how I really feel.
“We might consider this”—which really means, we will never, ever consider this, but I feel better telling you we will rather than look you in the face with the real answer.
“Let me pray about that”—which really means, I have no intention of praying at all, but I sound so much more spiritual when I act like I will.
“We’ll see”—which really means, I’ve already “seen” and the future does not look promising for your idea.
“It could be an option down the road”—which really means, it will be so far down the road neither of us will ever be here.
Afraid of potential conflict, weak leaders make you believe there’s a chance—even when they’ve already decided there is not a chance.
What’s the damage of saying “maybe” when the real answer is “no”?
• Unanswered questions bring confusion to the team.
• Energy is wasted dreaming about something that will never happen.
• Disappointment is bigger when the person learns the real answer (or never receives one).
• The team loses confidence in the leader.
Is this what you want, leader?
Strong leaders, even though they know “no” is not what you want to hear, tell you the truth up front. They eliminate the guesswork.
Hopefully if you follow this blog you know without me saying it the answer shouldn’t always be no. I’ve written numerous posts about how good leaders empower rather than control. In fact, I’d be in favor of letting people make mistakes before I would be in favor of telling them no—even when I sense no is the right answer. We learn best from mistakes. If, however, you know you’ve made up your mind, stop me from guessing, stop building false hope and tell me what you’re really thinking.
Leader, what door have you kept open even though you know you’ve already closed it?
Make the call. Do it now!