I’ve recently discovered a new internet series starring Jerry Seinfeld called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee which is truly, and equivocally, a show about nothing. And it’s also hilarious – especially this outtake, or “spare part”, with fellow comedian Brian Regan.
Click the picture to watch the video, then come right back. You’ll come back, right? Okay, go watch the clip…
Of course this was a goofy premise about the fact that just about anything is fair game at a Cirque du Soleil show. How many leaders fall into this same trap by saying yes too often? Especially when they don’t know it.
Think about the last time you walked by an employee, saw them out of dress code but didn’t say anything. You actually just said, “YES, it’s okay to not be in dress code.”
How about the time you saw an employee leaning on a pole staring off into space? You’ve been short staffed lately, so you were just happy to have someone in that position. When you walk by and say nothing, you say “YES, it’s okay to lean against the pole and stare off into space.”
What about the employee who refuses to go do a certain job (that is well within their job description)? They huff and they puff and you don’t want to make waves, so to appease them you allow them do a job they find more acceptable. You just said “YES, the inmates are running the asylum and I have no authority what-so-ever.”
Unfortunately, your job is NOT to say YES all the time. You have to know when to say no.
But here’s the interesting thing… I think you KNOW that you need to say no. I think you even know WHEN you need to say no. In fact, I’ll bet that each person reading this right now agrees that in the above scenarios, a more appropriate “no” response was needed (we can say YES to that!). So why didn’t it happen?
On some level, it comes down to fear. Fear that you’ll hurt their feelings, fear that they’ll point out your inconsistencies (because they did the exact same thing the day before, and you didn’t say anything then, either) or fear that they’ll tell you what they really think, walk out, and leave you short staffed.
Is the perceived fear worse than reality? Perhaps, but that doesn’t stop us from being paralyzed by it. If you have ever gotten over any other sort of fear in your life, you know that the best way to get over it, is to face it head on.
Here are a few things to help you get over the fears that might be driving the behaviors above:
- Know the facts – There is nothing better than having the cold hard facts on your side. If you approach someone about dress code without really knowing the policy yourself, you can’t really defend your position. Knowing the facts gives you the confidence to say no, that’s not acceptable.
- Plan for all the arguments – What do you think an employee will say when you approach them to discuss their posture and appearance? “It’s hot”, “No one cares if I smile”, “Ryan’s leaning too, why don’t you talk to him?” These types of comments can really catch you off guard, and that is not a comfortable position to be in. Practice your responses with another leader before you have to have the conversation for real.
- Remember that you have to start sometime – If you fear doing something, you have likely avoided it until now. But, just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have airplanes or iPhones. It may be painful and awkward at first, but it WILL get easier with practice and success.
Getting over these fears is all about having the confidence to take the first step, so you can take all of the other steps needed to be proficient.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always run away and join the circus… YES!
About the author: Matt Heller has a simple goal: Help the leaders of the attractions industry get the most out of themselves and their teams. Whether through large group training sessions, individual coaching or leadership effective audits, Matt dedicates himself to find the right solutions for each client.