Justify the No

How many times do you say no at work ? 

Reject a proposal

Kill an idea

Stop someone from doing something

Most leaders don’t realise but they become no machines. They are constantly challenging and rejecting things that are being proposed. They often interrupt people who have come to present right after the presentation begins.

This is an idea, people and growth killing behaviour that prevents teams from blossoming the best ideas from emerging. It is also many times not deliberate – leaders do it to save time, to prevent mistakes, to share their own experiences and over time it becomes a habit. 

What if we create an opposing culture .

The default answer is yes. If you say no you must as a leader explain and justify why.

At Unilever International we have experimented with this culture for the past few years. The default answer to all ideas, projects and concepts is YES. If anyone says NO they will be challenged and questioned. If someone is very passionate they will push past the NO to make it happen and they will be supported.

What have been some of the learnings and experiences

  1. Empowerment – Teams know they can decide and go ahead and leaders will back them. hence we have seen a 400% increase in our rate of innovation with teams accelerating innovation faster than we an expect. They know that they will get support and sign offs.
  1. New Ventures– We have opened nearly 50 new markets and entered 5  new categories that we could not have imagined. This is without any additional funding, resources or any internal corporate venturing department.
  1. Hyper Growth Acceleration – Our growth has hyper accelerated beating our peers and many other fast growing industries over the past 5-7 years
  1. Retention – We have retained nearly 90-95% of top talent consistently – people just don’t want to leave a place where the default answer is yes
  1. Screw Ups – It’s inevitable that we have failure and we have had many. We accept them, learn from them and make amends in the model and culture accordingly. We have identified the specific areas where we see more failure and take corrective action there
  1. Self Funded Start Ups – We have created 10+ internal start up new ventures with zero additional funding. All we needed is a passionate founder who loved an idea or a project, give them basic support, a small budget to start ( usually less than 50k $) and most of these are now multi million $ businesses
  1. Virtual Working – We embrace working virtually, globally, seamlessly and instantly. We are always connected to each other using technology and make decisions in instants. We approve business proposals on whats app messages if they are urgent enabling decision making to progress
  1. Unblock – Large organisations by nature have controls, rules and systems for good measure. However many times junior managers get stuck and they cannot get unstuck easily in these measures. That’s where default answer is yes comes into play. Seniors will support all decisions made to help customers and consumers and they will do so instantly
  1. Escalation – We escalate. All the time. We have no tolerance for things getting stuck at any level. We move the decision up the chain till it is made. We expect the default answer to be yes and we push for it
  1. NO is acceptable – Finally if after all the effort sometimes the answer can be no and has a strong and clear rationale. We accept and move on

What if you can adopt this YES Culture. What if you have to justify your NO.

How will this change your organisation ?

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