Over the years I have counseled entrepreneurs to think of a “no” response in terms of “yes, but…” There is always another way to say “no” that leaves the door open for creative thinking.

Well, almost always.

Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and say “NO” with strong conviction. It usually happens after several attempts to find a “yes, but” solution to a problem or issue that just can’t be resolved.

Assuming that you have the “yes, but” tool on your belt, then an occasional “NO” will resonate through the halls and be much more effective than if used often as a leadership tool.

Now that we have that out of the way, how can you capitalize on the use of “yes, but?” There should always be an alternate solution that responds to the needs of both parties, even if not completely so. How about: “May I take five weeks of vacation this year?”

Especially for a person badly needed within the organization, this is a conundrum for management. “Could you take them in two week increments if you have that many weeks coming?” “Is there a way to take less this year and spread this over two years?” “Policy says ‘no,’ but if you’ll tell me some good arguments and accept unpaid time off for the extra unearned vacation, let’s see what we can do.”

“No! You don’t have that much coming. Go back to work. Please.”

Which of these leaves the direct report more satisfied, even if the later answer is “Can’t do it because…?” Leadership often means leading with compromise, not just by the book. “Yes but” is almost always the best way to respond to a request. Try it…

Dave Berkus
Dave Berkus is a noted speaker, author and early stage private equity investor. He is acknowledged as one of the most active angel investors in the country, having made and actively participated in over 87 technology investments during the past decade. He currently manages two angel VC funds (Berkus Technology Ventures, LLC and Kodiak Ventures, L.P.) Dave is past Chairman of the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest angel networks in the United States. Dave is author of “Basic Berkonomics,” “Berkonomics,” “Advanced Berkonomics,” “Extending the Runway,” and the Small Business Success Collection. Find out more at Berkus.com or contact Dave at dberkus@berkus.com