Momentum Podcast: 169

Be Grateful For No

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

It is certainly counterintuitive but sometimes the most important thing you will hear from your team is “NO”. Let's be honest, none of us wants to hear the word no. When we ask our team to do something, the last thing we want to hear is that they can't. However this is one of the most important things a team member can tell you. 

When someone pushes back and gives you constructive input as to why they are pushing back, you should congratulate them and thank them. As entrepreneurs when we begin to build teams, we can't possibly see everything or know everything.

It becomes vitally important that our team members are comfortable telling us when they feel something is wrong or won't work. Unfortunately most teams are afraid to push back, and that becomes a liability. Yours does not have to be this way.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure we pay attention to their rules but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution and we always will be.

Be grateful for no. This is counterintuitive, I know, because as entrepreneurs, we really don't want to hear the word no. When we propose a new project to our team, we don't want to hear any of them say, "No, we don't want to do this." When we show someone how to do something, we don't want to hear anyone tell us no and when we tell the team, our team, that we have a new outcome or something we want to chase or something that's gonna be huge, in no way do we want to hear no, but we should be grateful for it.

Today, I was meeting with a friend of mine, Brent [Dusing 00:01:43], who is really a highly, high achieving CEO. He has run several multimillion dollar companies, he has had a successful exit, he's done an incredible turnaround of GameSalad, the company that he's running right now. I mean one of the most intense turnarounds I've ever witnesses. I really ... It's embarrassing to say this but when he first started, I didn't think it was gonna work and they were actually clients and once he came in and we sat down and we looked at it and we started building it together and looking at the process together, I'm telling you, I think there's one guy in the world that could have pulled it off, it's Brent.

He's become a really close friend of mine and I listen to him. Today, he reminded me, "Hey, we always have to have people on our team who are willing to tell us no and hopefully we have a lot of people on our team that are willing to tell us no, and here's what I mean by that." I don't want to build a team of people who just say no for no reason. I want to be very clear, I'm not just saying you need to find a bunch of negative people because that will crush you. That will suck the life out of you. That hurts entrepreneurs. There's a profound difference between someone who's negative or a naysayer or doubts things and someone who's willing to tell you no when it isn't a good idea, when the resources aren't there, when it isn't gonna work, when there's a conflict, when there's a challenge, when there's an issue that you can't see.

Because here's what our team becomes for us. They become this extension of who we are. You know I've mentioned Ironman on the podcast before. I think every entrepreneur, and let's be honest, man or woman, would love to have every capability we have extended. Like that's what happens to Ironman. He pushes a button, the suit goes on him and suddenly every capability a human being has is amplified. He can see better, he can fly, he can run faster, he can defend himself, he can fight better. He can hear with bionic ears. That's what we all want. Well, when you look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world today, they put Ironman to shame. When you look at entrepreneurs who have 10, 15, 20, 30, 100,000 people working for them, think of how extended that Ironman suit is. It's massive, far beyond what the fictional character actually has. I think all of us want that. We might not know how to get it but all of us want that enhanced capacity to go make a greater contribution, massive outcomes, make more money, create more wealth. Make a bigger change in the world. One of the most important aspects of getting there is building a team around you where you can create consensus and then create momentum because consensus will always create momentum.

One of the things that you have to do in order to create momentum is you have to not only allow for but be grateful for and be open to and ask for team pushback. You have to ask your team to tell you where things won't work. You have to ask your team to tell you where you're making mistakes and as your business grows, it becomes critically important that your team tells you where the challenges are, where the issues are, where you're missing, seeing something because here's what happens when we grow a team. You hit a point where you can't possibly physically know everything that's going on in your company. So when you go out to do something or make something happen or go out and try and change something on your team and someone says no, you have to stop and listen and your team's probably not gonna say, "Hey, no," they're gonna tell you why [inaudible 00:05:28] and here's what constructive team pushback feels like. I want you to hear this because we have to be really careful. Sometimes productive team pushback feels offensive. Sometimes it frustrates us. Sometimes it's irritating. When somebody is giving you constructive pushback, what they're doing is ... Constructive criticism saying like, "Hey, there's an issue here," they're explaining to you in detail what the issue is.

When that happens as an entrepreneur, you have a responsibility. One, to calm the instinct you have to get irritated, frustrated and annoyed with the person. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is when a team member says, "Hey, this might not work," and then starts explaining why is to visibly or physiologically show that you're frustrated or upset. Because we have to understand and remember as CEOs, what we do is seen through a microscope and heard through a megaphone. What you do is amplified, what you say is amplified. So if you look frustrated or irritated or upset that a team member gave you pushback, you are signaling your entire team to never do that. You're also signaling that team member not to do it again and that can create massive challenges in your company. Because when somebody pushes back, here's what your job is. First to thank them, like, "Hey, thanks. I didn't see that. I need you to explain from your point of view what you were talking about." When somebody pushes back, you want to make space for that pushback, that criticism, that lack of consensus because you want everyone to agree once you're moving forward.

When somebody pushes back, you want to make sure that you allow for the conversation to happen because a lot of times when somebody's pushing against what we want, we try and do everything we can to minimize the conversation, make it go by faster, and move on but here's why this is so important. Really, there's so many reasons why you want a team that will push back, challenge you, tell you what's really going on, because you'll be able to continue to grow it.

You also want to make sure that you never become the emperor with no clothes. The fable of the emperor with no clothes is that there was an emperor who wanted to impress the people of his village so he called the tailor and he had him make him clothes and the tailor made him incredible clothes and the emperor went out and people weren't impressed enough so he had him do it again and then the emperor went out and showed everyone and he had him do it again and he had him do it again and then finally the tailor came and just faked it. He told the emperor he was making him clothes and he told him that it was like the finest garments that there were and then he put nothing on him. He told him that he wouldn't even see them or feel them but the whole village would be completely impressed by them and the emperor, because forever he hadn't allowed constructive criticism because the people in the village were scared of him, because there wasn't open dialogue or conversation, walked around nude in his brand new clothes.

That happens to CEOs every single day. We get frustrated with pushback from our team. We don't allow it. We have meetings where we just railroad three things through and tell everyone what they're going to do. We don't allow for consensus so that there's clear commitment from everyone on the project which when we don't allow consensus, we don't create ownership. When we don't create ownership, the team does not have an increased commitment to the project. When there's no increased commitment, you don't get discretionary time. When you don't get discretionary time, when they're not thinking about the project driving home, when they're not thinking about it in the shower, you don't get maximum momentum and productivity and that's what I want everyone who listens to this podcast to have.

The way you do that is you let your team tell you no. You let your team show you that there is an issue. Your let your team tell you why something that you proposed might have a challenge and then you work together to work around it, create a new plan, and gain consensus because when you start a project, when you go in a direction, when you have a set of goals that your whole team is going to attack, you want to make sure that everyone on the team agrees that they're valid, that they're achievable, and that they know their part and they're excited about it. Because when you gain consensus, your team will be in massive momentum. I want to take you through why and it's hard because we have to actually put ourselves in the position of a team member.

So let's put ourselves first in the position of a team member that has a CEO that doesn't gain consensus. They go into a team meeting, the CEO jumps up, grabs a whiteboard, tells them exactly how a project is going to happen, they think at least two or three times, "I don't think those things are going to work," but they're afraid to say anything to the CEO because the last time that the CEO had anybody say anything, he got really frustrated and upset and walked out of the room and nobody said anything really since then so everybody sits there, watches him write all over the board. Most people in the room don't really know how it's all going to work out. They let him finish and then go off and try and do the work and then what happens is the project stalls, things don't get done in time, everybody's frustrated with each other, and who's most frustrated? The CEO. What happens is in an environment like that, you will burn through A players, you will lose the right people on the team, the ones who can really grow your company, and you will end up with a mediocre team that's willing to put up with being forced to lose.

Now let's look at the other side of the coin. A team member goes into a meeting, the CEO grabs a whiteboard, jumps up, starts writing stuff on the board. They feel like something's not going to work so they ask a question, make an objection. The CEO says, "Hey thanks. I didn't even see that. Let's figure out a way around it. The team member can contribute. Maybe a couple other team members contribute." As that dialogue continues, there is an open dialogue around what will work and what won't work, what people believe could happen, what they don't think will happen. There's as much of the process, as much of the issues are resolved in that meeting as possible so that by the time it's done, the CEO asks a question, "Hey guys, does anybody else think there's another challenge or an issue with what we have on the whiteboard up here or can we pull this ofF?" Everyone in the team looks at each other, looks at the CEO and says, "Yeah, we've got this." Then the team walks out with an incredibly high level of commitment and excitement around a project that they've just set up in a way that they virtually are guaranteed to win.

That's how it should work, but the challenge is is that far too many CEOs and it's funny, Brent told me this today while he was over, that he had a mentor or a coach at one point that told him what he should do, the way he should run his company is to create crazy huge [inaudible 00:12:28] goals and then just drive his team and push them and motivate them and make them chase these massive outcomes that they didn't really know how to chase. We were talking about it today and Brent said it was painful and I know because I did the same thing. I think we all do that in our early careers because that's what the common dialogue is around how to make things happen in a company. You put up huge goals and then you hire a team and you push them and prod them and motivate them and compensate them and do whatever you have to do so that they'll go after those huge goals but there's not really a clear process to get there and in real companies, in companies that actually change the world, nothing could be further from that process. In real companies, there's a certainty to delivery. In real companies, there's clear consensus across departments because they all have to agree that their part is going to work with the other department or the whole entire process comes tumbling down.

Really, the only type of company where you see this complete lack of consensus and inability to take criticism is in smaller organizations run by a CEO that hasn't realized if they don't allow consensus, you are ... I want you to know if you don't allow consensus, I'm gonna personalize this, I want you to feel it. If you don't allow consensus, you are allowing your ego to stall the growth of your company because the only reason you wouldn't let everyone in the room agree that something can be done is you are too afraid that somebody might tell you you can't do it and that is your ego not only getting in the way of consensus but getting in the way of you actually building your team.

So when you're in a meeting the next time and you're with your team, you're proposing something, I want you to ask for sincere criticism. I want you to say, "Hey guys, is there anything I'm missing here? Can anyone see anything that I haven't said? I don't see everything. I need some input here. I want some help understanding if there are any misses here." If you haven't allowed this in a long time, it might take a while for your team to transition. So when somebody does point it out, I don't want you to just think gratitude, I want you to start the process of saying, "Hey, thanks for pointing that out and thanks for pushing back and thanks for showing us that we were gonna go down the wrong path and thanks for making sure that we actually create momentum. We don't make a lot of noise." Because when you gain consensus, I told you the process already but I just want to share it again, consensus creates ownership. Ownership creates increased commitment. Increased commitment creates ... Your team members will give you their discretionary time. When you get discretionary time, you get far more out of your team and all of that together will create more momentum than you ever thought possible. The only thing in between you and having a brand new way of running your team is giving gratitude for no and encouraging your team to push back on you.

Like I said, I think this is one of the hardest lessons that a CEO learns. I know it was one of the hardest ones for me but when I let go of some of the fear of letting my team make decisions and I went into meetings and actually allowed them to tell me what they believed they could do so that we all agreed on what would happen, not what could happen, my entire life and my business has changed. My margins were higher, I was happier, my team was happier, we got far more accomplished, and we made a lot more money and a much higher growth curve. So if you're ready to grow your business, if you're ready to have a team that's committed to you, if you're ready to surround yourself with people who have your back, give gratitude for nos.

Thanks for spending this time with me. If you haven't yet, download my book The Entrepreneurial Personality Type. You can go to, That is the original text. You're gonna want to check it out. We have another book coming out soon. I've been talking with our writer on it. I couldn't be more excited about it and I will keep you all, all of our momentum podcast listener members, informed as to when it's coming out but right now, you can get The Entrepreneurial Personality Type which if you haven't downloaded and read this book yet, this book will give you more momentum than just about any other book will if you identify with the EPT and the three goals that I wrote that book with were help entrepreneurs understand themselves better, stop limiting behavior and create unlimited momentum. I can't wait for you to read it,

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With gratitude,


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