be overcome — Samuel Johnson
Leaders understand that obstacles are a part of the landscape on the
road to success. But how many leaders are self-aware enough to realize
that some of the obstacles blocking their desired success are
When what stands between your employees or volunteers and potential
success is a constant drum beat of no or the good ole standby of,
“We’ve never done it this way before,” then you are capping your
talent and are hindering your chances of success.
In his book, It’s Not About the Coffee, past Starbucks International
president Howard Behar writes of the necessity of taking ‘no’ out of
your playbook. His thought was that we can grow so accustomed to
saying no to our customers or employees that soon these roadblocks
take on a life of their own and become the unspoken rules, the No
Book, that stands between you and your potential success.
One example Behar shared about Starbucks turning an everyday no into a
yes was by opening the door early in the morning. Customers would come
by ten minutes before the store opened and they were routinely turned
away. The message the prospective customer would get was, “No, we’re
not open yet.” When they realized they could say yes they began to
open ten minutes before the posted opening to serve their customers.
To be sure, not every yes will guarantee success and not every no will
deny it. But what you must realize is that until you release the power
of possibilities in your people they will never have a chance to find
out. Taking no out of your playbook will unlock their potential and
give them much needed freedom to grow. That is critical to your
success. Here is why taking no out of your playbook matters to you as
It empowers your people
There is no better way to empower your people than to release their
creative ingenuity with a yes attitude. It signals that you believe in
them and want them to reach their full potential. Empowered people are
driven people and are more invested in the product and outcomes. When
you remove no from the playbook and replace it with a yes then you
elevate everyone to a new level.
It puts the focus where it belongs
When no is replaced with a yes then the playbook becomes a different
document. The paradigm shifts. You go from paying defense to playing
offense. Now instead of an inward focus it’s an outward one. Where
once it was all about you, now it’s about those you serve. When your
purpose revolves around a “yes we can” mentality then there is no room
for “no we can’t” detractors. When your people are free to focus on
what they can do instead of what they can’t do it will make a world of
It creates momentum
Some leaders exert a lot of energy and waste a lot of time trying to
figure out the secret to creating a culture of momentum. Sadly what
some do not realize is that they are the reason why it’s lacking. Why?
They haven’t taken no out of their playbooks and consequently their
much needed momentum lies dormant.
What would it take to motivate you? Former Miami Dolphin’s great Bob
Kuechenberg shares how he got his. He tells the story of his father
and uncle who were human cannonballs in carnivals. His father told
him, “go to college or be a cannonball,” said Kuechenberg. Then one
day his uncle came out of the cannon and missed the net and hit the
Ferris wheel. It was then that Kuechenberg decided to go to college.
As a leader you can either take no out of your playbook and put in a
resounding yes, or you can be shot out of a cannon. Why not release
the potential of your people, focus on those you serve, and generate
the momentum you need? Say yes!
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at