The best project managers learn to say “no” without actually using the word “no.” “No” has an air of finality and dis-empowers the team. It is also a good idea to avoid phrases like “Yes, but …” There are some better ways to express negativity.
Try some of these alternative phrases instead:
- Yes, and in exchange, I will need “x.” Will that work? (say yes and get something in return)
- I’m worried about “x” now, so would “y” and “z” work instead? (suggest alternatives)
- Given “x,” how would you like me to proceed? (point out a downside to “yes” and get input)
- Would you please help me prioritize these actions? (support the priority of a “yes” to be considered)
- May I make an alternative suggestion? (a more direct way to suggest alternatives)
Similarly, setting arbitrary limits and constraints can be equally challenging. Rather than set a limit, take other approaches. For example, in frustration, a manager may want to set a limit on the number of issues that can be reported. Instead of a limit, consider these alternative actions:
- Define multiple categories for issues and clearly define what goes in each “bucket”
- Specify time frames for addressing items in each category
- When there are more issues than you can handle, you can either wait it out or bring in more resources
- If a higher number of issues than expected happens for a prolonged period, you can re-think quality plans and re-define priorities
Almost any limit can be avoided by more finely dividing up the target of the limit.
Using these techniques will empower the team and establish you as a respected and trusted leader.
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