One of the biggest frustrations we hear from bosses is when their team tells them no – not necessarily in a disrespectful way, but as in “No, that can’t get done by Friday.” Or “No, I can’t possibly learn that new computer program, I’m really bad with computers.” Or “No, I don’t know how to do that.”

Their team’s resistance to implementing new systems, procedures, software and ideas hinders their ability to move the business forward in the direction they want. And for business owners who are looking to implement new things into their business, it can be deflating and discouraging. They end up feeling like they are fighting their own team to better the business. While there is a time and place and method for a team member to keep their business owner focused and not lost in the land of ideas, the disconnect between a business owner’s excitement about change and growth and a team member’s hesitancy and overwhelm about it is one of the biggest frustrations we see in the boss/team relationship.

There is a lot of training and insight we offer in this area, having been key team members (intrapreneurs supporting entrepreneurs in growing their businesses) AND also having been the business owner. However, I had a big “aha” about this the other day that cleared up a lot of the confusion about WHY this happens.

My 3-year-old son and I were getting ready for school – a process that pretty much consists of him repeatedly saying, “Mommy, do you want to play with me?” and me responding “No lovey, it’s time to get ready for school.” This morning he was getting upset about it, and I said, “Hey, we will do the dinosaur puzzle after I pick you up from school, OK?” His tearful response was “Nooooooooooo, I don’t want to do the puzzle after school.” Confused, I said “I thought you wanted to do the dinosaur puzzle?” After some tears and explanation, I realized his “no” didn’t mean he didn’t want to do the puzzle – it meant he didn’t want to do it after school, he wanted to do it NOW.

I realized as I started to notice how often a 3-year-old says “no” without actually meaning no – they mean they don’t like the way the plan has been laid out, or they don’t understand what you are asking them to do, or they are overwhelmed, sick, tired and confused, or it’s something new they have no context for. So they say no.

I’ve realized I should not be deterred or discouraged by the “no” but should look at the situation and his perspective (or lack thereof) of what I’m asking him to do. And from there, I must address the true objection, or explain what I’m asking of him, or make it less scary/overwhelming. Not only does it get us past “no” but it’s a learning moment for him. He learns how to face change without the fear he had, even in simple ways. So, say I put a new kind of food on his plate and he responds dramatically with “No, I don’t like that!” Instead of trying to reason with his fear by using my old response of, “But you’ve never even tried it; how do you know if you like it?” I say, “Take two bites. If you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it.” Now when he sees something new on his plate, he says, “I don’t like that – how many bites do I take, mommy?”

How often do we do this with our team? We propose a new idea or change and are met with a chorus of “No!” And in vain we argue the idea and why it’s so great. Likely the team is overwhelmed, has no context to compare the idea to, or doesn’t understand what’s really being asked of them. Look past the no and address what’s really causing the pushback. Not only will it allow your idea to be considered, it will also allow you to access the tremendously valuable information in your team’s heads regarding their concerns about the idea. This is great R&D to improve the idea or plan for challenges. The key is to access this information versus stopping at the “no.” Last, it will start training your team and you on a process to handle change and new ideas versus it being a point of contention between you and your team.

We call team members who are trained to evaluate and implement ideas and growth “intrapreneurs.” To learn more about how we can help you get the right team squared away and all trained in your practice just click here and we’re happy to schedule a one-on-one discovery call to help you with the next step!

Laney