Luck is a very highly consumer driven company. When the demand is high, it is go time. In addition to that, for 90 years Luck has operated under the principle that “if you do right by your people, your people will do right by you.” We are others oriented here. Those two ideas combined, we have a company of rock stars and achievers. The people here want to do well, they want to work hard, and they want to do more.
“Yes, I can stay late to work on a project.”
“Yes, I can load one more truck.”
“Yes, I can email over the weekend.”
“Yes, I can handle another client.”
Those “yes” and “can-do” attitudes are a norm around here. It’s actually pretty amazing how much people do to contribute to our collective success. Saying “yes” has undoubtedly been a key element in the longevity and prosperity of this company as well as in the tenure of its employees. But according to the basic laws of physics where there is an up, there is always a down. So then I ask, what is the price of yes?
We have all worked with that person at some point. The grass is always greener, everyone is always right, and life is good. A “yes-man” can be challenging to work with in general and is particularly detrimental in a formal leadership spot. There are two stories here.
The first story… “yes men” are typically people pleasers and they like harmony. It is so much easier for them in the short term to tell everyone “yes” or that they are right than it is to offend folks by shutting them down or disagreeing with them; however, that behavior in the long term can so easily lead to mixed or conflicting messages and in turn a complete lack of harmony from the top-down. People can pick and choose what to believe with no parameters. Why? Because the boss said everyone is right. The rule is there are no rules when the answer is always yes.
The second story… in business, it is said that the most important part of strategy is not necessarily what you are going to do but rather what you are not going to do. Great companies are highly focused and do a small handful of things exceptionally well. When the leader says yes to everything, people cannot decipher what is truly important, and ultimately compromise that ability to focus.
Welcome to the animal house… to the dysfunction junction… this place is the price of yes. According to a theory by Dr. Bowen, the messages that leaders send, both overtly and covertly, become the rules by which organizations function or become dysfunctional. As a leader, if you are a “yes man,” are you really sending the clear message your associates need to effectively run your business?
Ah, the superhero. He is really a good guy. His superiors consider him so valuable because they know that yes, whatever the task may be, he can get it done, somehow. This guy fits the ticket to flourish in a formal leadership position. He can and will do everything. Everyone can see how much he loves his work. Even his wife… on the weekends… and oh yeah, he hasn’t taken a vacation in four years. His wife especially loves that, so do his superiors.
At our company, we are all leaders. We work as a team to take care of each other but how can we be expected to take care of anyone unless we take care of ourselves first? That idea of wellbeing does have some gravity. I keep hearing that one of the biggest issue related to work performance is a lack of sleep. When people work at capacity all the time, are they truly taking the time required to nurture themselves? It’s okay to say “yes,” especially when you really like what you’re doing but remember that in a consumer driven and others oriented business, there will always be more. Think about how saying “yes” will effect others. For example, when you bring your work home to your significant other or children on the weekend, are you putting those relationships on the back burner for work? Also, consider the short term v. the long term affects of saying “yes.” Sure, in the long term you might get another client; but in the short term, when you stay up all night working to get that client and come in the next day barely alive, is that really leading by example?
The price of yes here is where exactly you land along the fine line between ripe and rotten. If you say yes to too much, things can get rotten pretty quickly.
I fell into this superhero persona not too long ago myself. In college I worked anywhere from twenty five to sixty hours a week, averaging two to three jobs at any given time, plus full time college. Why did I keep saying “yes” to so much stuff? There are two reasons. The first- I said “yes” because I could. I love a challenge and juggling so much at one time excited me, exercised my brainpower, and kept me on my toes. The second reason is because I felt like I needed money to survive more than I needed good grades or a stellar attendance record. In retrospect, as a superhero, I was so short sighted. I didn’t thrive, I survived. College wasn’t fun. I said yes to so much that I was exhausted and sick all the time. I missed class because I literally could not get up. I never took off of work. I stopped hanging out with my friends and family. I lived alone and literally became a hermit. Boyfriend? What boyfriend? They never stuck around because I was too busy and they weren’t the priority. The money didn’t ever stick around too long either, nor the jobs. The only thing I had to show for it all was a C average (and I am not C student).
So here I am four years later. Life is good and I finally feel stable. I am even looking at going back to graduate school. There’s this one little issue though… I don’t know if I’ll ever get into grad school because of my low college GPA. I was a superhero then. I did everything and it seemed ripe. It wasn’t. I went so far astray that I forgot to invest in myself, both academically and personally. What price do I pay for being a superhero and saying “yes” then? My future, now.
Initially, I wanted write about how to appropriately say “no” in this new “can do,” others oriented environment. Oddly enough, at home my boyfriend frequently refers to me as the “no” lady. Then I came here and I just couldn’t do it. My position, here at Luck Companies, requires me to efficiently manage almost every aspect of my boss’ life. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. With so much going on, I just could not wrap my head around everything. I started to enter what we call here a D2 space (from SLII). I was confused but wouldn’t ask questions. I wanted to complete tasks but was not aggressive enough to find them. I wanted to tell someone but who would understand- everyone’s been here for at least ten years. I didn’t know what would warrant a “yes” or why.
I did some research. That did not really help. I read some articles. They were okay. Then I stumbled upon the secret sauce over a casual lunch at Whole Foods one day. A friend of mine explained that if whatever is in question does not align with one’s personal mission, then simply don’t say “yes.” That made sense, especially when I am working for a company that is so focused on fulfilling its mission. If it doesn’t fit the mission, then it doesn’t fit the bill. Same idea for people.
That really cleared the skies for me. I figured out how to say “no” quite easily yet reasonably after that. So then the goal became not to write about “how to say no” (there’s a million articles about that) but rather, to unveil the consequences of saying “yes” too much. According Simon Sinek, it’s not about “what” you do, it’s about “how” and “why” you do it. Here at Luck, we like to say “yes” because we are others oriented and we really do care. That is a strength of ours- yes, people come first. But, so they say, an overused strength can sometimes become a weakness and have an associated price.
Of course, we all have our own versions of what that looks like. For me, the price of yes is a “yes-man” and a superhero. It could look like a million other things to other people. At the end of the day though, it all comes down to being intentional and purposeful in life.
So with that, I leave you a final thought… given purposeful intent, not everything in life has to have a price.