Roy Osherove in response to my last post on the art of saying no linked to his short (but very good) article on coaching, pointing it is better to use a chance to help people grow instead of simply turning their requests down.
Yes Roy, you’re right. To some point at least. I mean I love the “What are you going to do about that?” story. But I also know a different flavor of it. It goes like that.
– Pawel, I have a problem with my project here…
– Um, what are you going to do about that?
– I need more people so please assign them to the project.
– Well, that might be a bit difficult. Do we have other options?
– No, this is the only one.
– Are you sure? Can’t you juggle with tasks in the schedule, haggle with the client so we can do something later or something less, incur some technical debt or just be late with this task?
– No, we need more people. There’s no other choice. If you don’t give me them the world will burn in hell of flames and our poor souls will be lost.
– I have no free people, sorry. Now, deal with that.
I know – the last line should go like that:
– I have no free people. What are you going to do about that? Ha! Check, mate! I have just used magic Roy Osherove’s formula so you lose and I win, sucker!
The problem I see here is taught helplessness. People choose the only solution they believe would work, no matter how unlikely it is to happen, and don’t even try to look for any other idea. It’s my way or highway kind of situation. And well, it’s usually my way when we are at that.
Usually in such cases unless you start with the art of saying no you can’t move to what are you going to do about that. You can hardly turn active search for reasonable solution on unless you turn down the one which is imprinted deep in the mind of a person who ask the question.
Taught helplessness basically makes people immune for coaching. If you’re going to help them grow, you better have a good no at hand.