Why brokers need to learn to say 'no'

Clients and referrals stream in for those brokers that will go the extra mile and work beyond the call of duty – but is it time brokers learned to say no?

Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk of creative leadership lab Swim argue that resisting the temptation to bite off more than you can chew could be the best business decision you can make as a broker.

“We all do it. Almost everyone with a pulse is conflict-averse. We don’t want to let people down, deal with unhappy faces, look weak, risk being branded a slacker. We fear the judgment, the loss of popularity, repercussions real and imagined. From the nervous grad new to the workforce to the experienced and highly successful, we tell ourselves we’ll get it done, we’ll be heroes; it’ll all work out in the end,” say Kestin and Vonk.

But while it may seem like the easiest option in the short term, “yes-icide” can lead to dire results in the long-run.

“The boss that’s kicking cans for an hour when she doesn’t get her way is nothing compared to the moment of hearing you’ve blown the client relationship. Or worse.”

Thankfully, say Kestin and Vonk, these consequences are preventable. The entrepreneurs suggest three questions brokers should ask themselves before saying 'yes' to any extra assignments.

  1. Is my 'yes' aligned with achieving the long-term goal?
  2. Is 'yes' aligned with the brand’s values? My company’s? With mine?
  3. Does the data support a yes?

If the answer is no to any of the above, you’re in danger of committing yes-icide, say Kestin and Vonk. But if you’re still in need of a little persuasion before you pluck up the courage and say the big N-O, Kestin and Vonk suggest a simple weigh-up of the consequences should do the trick. Ask yourself:

  • What’s the worst that can happen if I say 'yes'?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if I say 'no'?

Now that you’ve convinced yourself that ‘no’ is the way to go, there still remains the difficulty in convincing your boss/colleagues/clients of the same. Kestin and Vonk suggest the way you deliver your 'no' can be the difference between “being the messenger they want to shoot and a person who’s appreciated for saving everyone from a bad decision”.

“Painting a vivid picture of the consequences of saying yes can help open people’s eyes to the other side of the question. Make them feel the full weight of yes. Then be part of the solution. If you have a different approach to the problem, share it. If you don’t, pitch in to figure it out.”

Done properly, tactful ‘no’s can garner admiration from your colleagues, and save having to bear the brunt of a job done half-baked, say Kestin and Vonk.

“When you become known for having the guts to speak your mind, put a stake in the ground for the sake of everyone’s success and find better ways to navigate the rough waters, you’ll land as a person people respect, a leader.

“Oh, one more bit of advice: The next time your employee tells you no for all the right reasons, thank them for it.”