The Politics of No

I hate to say no.  As such, I don’t know how I survived 30 plus years in corporate America.  It took years in the marketplace before I learned that no was often the best feedback, not just for the business, but for the individual receiving the negative response as well.  It is cliché-ish, but it does build character… over time.  It does when you are five.  It does when you are fifty.  In fact, I often muse about how the power of no when one is young contributes to the reduction of its use when one is fifty.  Think about it. 

No is no less integral to progress in the corporate world than yes, but when you are saying no to someone you highly regard, even like, it is generally painful.  At least, for me it still is today.  I am a humanist at heart.  I like people. I especially like kids.  But, today I am fairly certain that many of us think that a little more no when kids are, well, kids, would be a positive thing.  I say no much less today to my kids than I ever did when the world was their oyster.  So, when I moved into my new role with the Greater Impact Foundation, the concept of no reared its two-headed self once again.

The for-profit social impact space is filled by young people with big hearts, great ideas and the drive to make a positive impact on our world.  Personal gain is no less important than social gain, but their double bottom line attitude towards success is breathtakingly fresh.  So, when I am faced with a situation that does not meet the GIF mission criteria, I have to say no.  It is painful, but necessary.  GIF has a specific objective and if the organization soliciting support does not fit the criteria, even if what it is trying to do is worthwhile, I have to decline support.  It is a little easier to turn down such organizations.  I am certain they will find the perfect partner because their business model makes sense and it has all of the positive indicators that makes one believe they can succeed.  Conversely, it is when I have to say no to those organizations that do meet our mission criteria, but perhaps exhibit a flawed business model when no is easier to say.

For me, I love saying yes to organizations that meet the GIF criteria.  It is personally rewarding.  And, it is so much easier with an organization that is just a little premature, but aligns with our mission to offer the qualifier, “You are a perfect fit for GIF, but, no, not just yet.  Our risk tolerance is moderate.  When you can demonstrate quantifiable market traction, please call.  I really want to revel in the word YES.”