When you are asked to do something, does your “yes” really, truly mean “yes”, no matter what? If it means anything other than “Yes!” then you’re not living in integrity. To author Chris McGoff, the definition of integrity is a simple one: “I say what I am going to do, and I do what I say . . . every time.”
McGoff, author of The PRIMES, says that whenever he leads a project, he asks people to live in integrity for the duration of the project. As you can imagine, this makes people nervous. In McGoff’s world, there is no “maybe” or “I’ll try”. Answers to “Did you complete the task?” are either “yes” or “no”.
How nervous would this make you?
Here are three skills that McGoff says all people need in order to live in integrity:
- Recognize when you have been requested to give your word.
- Say “yes” only when you mean it.
- Get very good at say “no” because that is going to be your most common response.
I’ve found that many people are really terrible at saying no. And, if the only two acceptable responses are “yes” or “no” then guess what the default is?
In my experience, here are three reasons people have a hard time saying “no”:
Reason #1- I’ll let somebody down if I say “no”. Yes, you just might do that. But, will you be letting them down any less three weeks from now when you deliver poor results—or even worse, don’t deliver at all?
Reason #2 – This is such a great opportunity, I just have to find a way to do it. “Great” opportunities come along all the time. If this really is a can’t-pass opportunity, you’ll need to evaluate what you’re not going to do so you can make time for this extra work. And, sometimes, other obligations take precedence and you’ll need to let it go. It’s a bummer, but that’s life. You can’t do everything and do it well.
Reason #3 – It’s not acceptable to say “no”. This is the reason I hear most often from my clients. There’s a culture of “both/and” (I hate that phrase) or “do more with less”. My advice: do your best to help the requester understand exactly what you can and can’t deliver and why. For example: “I can get you specifications by Tuesday, but they’ll only be in draft form. That’s the best I can do within this time frame. If I can have until Thursday, I can get you firm estimates.”
We all want to live in integrity—but we might be fooling ourselves about how others see us. Keep in mind that each time you say “yes”, you are making a commitment. And people are measuring your integrity level by whether or not you keep your word. Even though it’s counter-intuitive, the word “no”, when applied appropriately, can help you elevate your integrity.