I was flying back home the night before our movers were arriving at my house to move our family halfway across the country.  In Nashville, the plane had mechanical issues and was canceled. I had asked to change my flight to the next outgoing plane when I saw the writing on the wall. The flight attendant gave me a cold no with no explanation and no further information. After the second plane left I asked again and was told it wasn’t their fault that I was late. They finally put me on a plane for a transfer to Dallas. The crew and passengers let me off first and called ahead to the other flight to let them know I was coming, so I was that guy you see in the movies…..you know the one running full speed down the terminal. I arrive at my gate just as the lady is closing the gate.  

“Can I please get on this plane? It’s still here and I have to meet movers at my house in the morning to move my family.”

“No. Sorry.” 

I was floored, and worn out from the stress and fatigue from running across the airport. Needless to say, the company was not on the same page in service levels that day. 

No one enjoys hearing the word no.

No is a negative (obviously!) and it also does something else to a large group of the population….it makes them want whatever it is even more. Think of kids when you say no to them. Oftentimes they will dial up the urgency or push even harder to get what they want. If you loved the show LOST as I did, you know the character John Locke was famously hung up about being told no. “You can’t tell me what I can’t do!” was his famous line that he said over and over. Instead of saying no, look for a way to say yes.

Sometimes your yes might not be exactly what they want, but it’s not a no. Here are some tips to help say yes:

  • Don’t immediately say no. Think through options and other possible solutions before giving your response.  Ask for more time if you need it. 
  • Establish boundaries beforehand on what you are empowered to take care of. Companies often give front-line employees the flexibility to take care of requests and service issues. 
  • Put yourself in their shoes and think of what would be a good solution if you were on that side of the conversation. 
  • Celebrate those who turn a no into a yes. It will build their confidence and reassure them that they made the right decision. 

Say yes to more than just your guests.

It’s just as important to think about your team in this regard if you are charged with leading people. That doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover; it means you should do everything within reason to meet their needs. Time off requests is a common item that should fall into this category. If you cant meet those needs and requests, give it a good effort first and let the person know that you did. They will appreciate that you didn’t immediately shut them down even if wasn’t the exact outcome they were looking for. Saying yes creates more loyalty, buy-in to your vision, and greater work efficiency. 

There are a few times when a No is absolutely appropriate. Those times include safety, moral, and integrity issues. 

Give it all you’ve got in finding a way to say yes to your guests and your team.

Make a better tomorrow.