Leading by saying No – The New CIO Series

Yes, no, maybe.The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

So you want to be a leader?  Great..hope you get there.  Will you be willing to do those difficult jobs a leader has to do? Will you be willing to say no?

When I talk about ‘difficult jobs’, I don’t mean the tough projects or difficult work…I mean the really hard tasks a leader has to undertake.  Things like saying no.  Giving feedback (the bad and the good).  Making decisions to cut budgets and staff.

Anyone can lead during the good times when you’re growing and able to say ‘yes’ all the time.  You remember those times when budgets weren’t so tights and your staffing levels were full?  They were good times weren’t they?  It was fun being a leader then wasn’t it?

Well….actually…it should be fun today too…but remember that you’ve got to take the good with the bad.  It might’ve been fun leading IT in the good days…but if it was all fun, you were doing it wrong.

The New CIO has to be able to lead during good times and bad.  The New CIO has to do the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff.  You’ve got to make those difficult decisions that make other people unhappy.

One of the most difficult things to do as a leader is to say no but it’s something you’ve got to do.  You can’t say yes to everyone and/or everything.  If you do, you’ll get a team and organization standing around wondering where they’re headed and why.

Saying No

Saying “no” is a powerful thing. No can mean rejection, disappointment, being wrong, being right and a whole host of things.  The one thing it doesn’t mean is ‘yes’….well…unless you or the person saying ‘no’ is a psychopath.

Even though ‘no’ can be a horrible thing to hear, it’s a word that must be used in order to lead.  It’s a necessary word for The New CIO. You’ve got to say no to those ‘cool’ projects.  You’ve got to say no to new staff.  Sometimes you’ve even got to say no to budgets.

Even more importantly, you’ve got to be able to say no to the organization.  This might just be the toughest thing of all You’ve got to say no in such a way as to help the organization understand your declination.

The New CIO has to help the organization understand what can and can’t be done.  We can’t do everything and can’t please everyone in this age of smaller budgets and staff.  Some things have to be passed over and The New CIO has to help the organization understand which technology projects should be undertaken and why.

Saying No is important for another reason.  Your staff needs to understand that you’re their leader and can make a decision. Saying yes to everything doesn’t engender respect for very long.  Your staff also needs to know that you’ve got a plan and can think strategically….you aren’t strategic or planning if you’re saying ‘yes’ to everything.

Saying no is hard…but necessary. Saying no helps the IT team understand where they are headed and it helps people understand priorities.

Saying no and making other difficult choices keeps your IT staff (and organization) from standing around wondering what they should be working on and where they are headed.

Stepping into any leadership role (IT related or not) requires hard work and difficult decisions. You won’t (and can’t) make everyone happy so don’t even try.  Make the decisions that are best for your team and organization…they might be tough decisions but you’ve got to make them.

The New CIO has to be willing to make those tough choices and to make those tough choices, you’ve got to say no.

Join me next week for another article in The New CIO series.

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Brian Sondergaard
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Eric, good post. It seems the need to say no is becoming more and more critical as we all operate under typically increasing constraints and demands. I worked with a really smart guy about a decade ago that encouraged us all to follow a process for “saying no.” While it really seems quite straightforward, I've found the process to be very helpful, as it generally leaves all parties feeling good (or at least understanding) about the decision. I described the process in my post “The Process for Saying No” here – http://blog.softwarearchitecture.com/2007/12/pr….

ericbrown
Guest

Hi Brian – thanks for stopping by…Thanks for the link over to your “The Process for Saying No”. Saying “no” is important and necessary but as you say, there has to be alternatives to the 'no'. Great stuff.

Wally Bock
Guest

You hit the important stuff, Eric. Saying “no” is part of what I call the “controlled confrontation” that is part of every boss's job.

Wally Bock
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Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

http://blog.threestarleadership.com/2009/09/16/

Wally Bock

ericbrown
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Thanks Wally…glad to be a part of that great group of folks.

ericbrown
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Thanks Wally…glad to be a part of that great group of folks.

Sudhir Mathew
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Sudhir Mathew

Hi Eric, great insight. it is so difficult for a leader to say 'no' and disappoint some from time to time. The leader, however, needs to see the big picture and evaluate where the bang for the buck lies. i remember during the good times when going to conferences and seminars were relatively easy. Now, i have to put together a business reason to justify attending the conference. And I have accepted the fact that i will hear 'no' from my boss from time to time. i, personally, would actually go a step further and always start of by saying… Read more »

Sudhir Mathew
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Sudhir Mathew

Hi Eric, great insight. it is so difficult for a leader to say 'no' and disappoint some from time to time. The leader, however, needs to see the big picture and evaluate where the bang for the buck lies. i remember during the good times when going to conferences and seminars were relatively easy. Now, i have to put together a business reason to justify attending the conference. And I have accepted the fact that i will hear 'no' from my boss from time to time. i, personally, would actually go a step further and always start of by saying… Read more »

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Strong article! RT @ericdbrown Leading by saying No http://bit.ly/tsvCK

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RT @steveroesler @ericdbrown series on one of my fave topics: Saying "No" http://bit.ly/h65I2

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RT @mikemyatt: RT @steveroesler @ericdbrown series on one of my fave topics: Saying "No" http://bit.ly/h65I2

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Excellent! MUST READ for Leaders RT @ericdbrown: New blog post: Leading by saying No – The New CIO Series http://bit.ly/2nAyU2

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RT: @tnvora: Excellent! MUST READ for Leaders RT @ericdbrown: New blog post: Leading by saying No – The New CIO Series http://bit.ly/2nAyU2

ericbrown
Guest

Sudir – great insight. If you start with no, you force yourself (and others) to think through the implications of the project or issue.

ericbrown
Guest

Sudir – great insight. If you start with no, you force yourself (and others) to think through the implications of the project or issue.

Gene De Libero
Guest

Great post, Eric. Not only should the CIO contribute at an executive level to an overall understanding of what can and can’t be done from an organizational capabilities POV, he/she must take an active role in ongoing capabilities assessments enterprise-wide to get a 35,000 foot view of where and who the talent assets are within the organization that he/she (and others on the team) can leverage before bringing in outside help. Like modern farmers, the more prep work we do up front, the better the harvest can be later on. Say no to inefficiency and waste.

ericbrown
Guest

Thanks Gene….great comment. Very true. CIO as farmer is a great analogy. You should write up an article about that. Lots of stuff there I think.

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Thanks Steve. Says a lot coming from you. RT @steveroesler: @ericdbrown series on one of my fave topics: Saying "No" http://bit.ly/h65I2

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Phil – much appreciated! RT @PhilGerb: Strong article! RT @ericdbrown Leading by saying No http://bit.ly/tsvCK

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thanks to @mikemyatt @LeadersCoach @webmadhan for RT’s of Leading by saying No – The New CIO Series http://bit.ly/2nAyU2

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@tnvora thanks for sharing the link to my Leading by saying No – The New CIO Series http://bit.ly/2nAyU2 article.

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Good mantra 4 life and biz..RT @rosasay: Saying “no” a powerful skill… @ericbrown explains well: Leading by saying No http://ow.ly/pJZ8

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[…] a CIO, you’ve got to do the ‘right‘ things and the ‘hard‘ things. Do what you can to be prepared and then look for those little signs that luck is on […]

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staffing321
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staffing321

This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Find more jobs: http://www.staffingpower.com/

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[…] want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.In a previous article titled “Leading by saying No“, I implore CIO’s to lead their organization by saying ‘no’ whenever […]

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