Step 1: Listen, ask questions
- Avoid reacting with a quick yes or no
- Force yourself to ask at least three questions
- Dig as far as you can, both to understand where your manager is coming from and to make sure they recognize that you genuinely care about the idea
Step 2: Form your own point of view
- Do you, as a leader within the company, believe this is a good idea?
- Spend 10 minutes filling out a one-pager, fleshing out the problem being solved, the evidence of the problem, and a high-level strategy
- With your point of view in mind, you can focus on how best to respond and articulate your answer back to your manager
Step 3: Respond constructively
Five phrases you can use to form a response. All of them actually help you say no.
1. “Yes, but here’s what’ll need to change. Should we move forward?”
2. “Yes, but not right now because we should stay focused on X because of XYZ. Do you agree?”
3. “No, but how about we do XYZ instead, which achieves a similar outcome?”
4. “No, but there’s something there. Let’s explore it further. Here’s what I suggest as a next step…”
5. “No, because it’s a bad idea for reasons XYZ. Do you agree?”