A Culture of AND

How do we end up saying yes to everything and then never having enough time to get it all done? This is a common experience in most corporations these days with shrinking budgets and fewer staff to meet all the expectations required for growth. We often say yes to things that don’t make sense to do rather than saying no to solidify our ‘high performer’ identity.

We can choose to operate differently by embracing A Culture of AND.

We achieve this by adding the word AND to saying YES and NO to others. This empowers us to:

  • give our best,
  • ensure that our colleagues and leaders have what they actually need vs. what they think they want,
  • get what we need to make good on that YES, or
  • let others know WHY we are saying no in ways that help them to move forward anyway

Let’s break each of these down –

Giving our Best:

What keeps us from giving our best? Often it is a lack of clarity in our role or a misunderstanding about what we are trying to achieve in the first place. Many times, it comes from not having the information required, or the time to digest that information prior to engaging in brainstorming or decision-making with others.

Other times it is the idea that we have to work 80 hours each week just to keep up with the pace of doing 2 full-time jobs while we wait for the new positions to be filled.

When we place getting the job done ahead of our health and wellness, it’s very difficult to give our best. During these times, it’s important to be OK with our best being different at different times. Raising children, supporting parents, dealing with health issues, and learning new skills, all impact what ‘our best’ is in each situation. When we use the power of AND to acknowledge what our best is in each moment and accept that is exactly what is needed, we are free to give what we have to give while managing expectations with others.

Saying YES + AND may sound like this:

‘YES – I’d love to help you get clarity on that. I have been out with a sick child for a week and am booked solid for the next two weeks AND I realize that I’m the best person to help you with this. I could give you a couple of hours next week if you could replace me at the all-day set-up meeting. That would give me the time to help you before the presentation’.

Saying NO + AND may sound like this:

‘NO. I won’t be able to help you with that as I’m off that day with my family AND I have two potential colleagues who may be able to step in on my behalf. I’d like to introduce them to you once I know who is available.

Ensuring that our colleagues and leaders get what they actually need

Too many times our colleagues or leaders ask us for information or assistance that doesn’t make sense to us. We can see that what they are asking for is not going to help them, yet we do it anyway, not wanting to question their authority or ‘higher wisdom’. Many of us learned this as small children when asking ‘why’ we had to do something, and the answer was ‘because I said so’. This taught many of us that others know better and that it’s not our place to question what they ask of us.

Unfortunately, those around us can’t always see the perspective we hold – even if they used to do the same job in the past. If we are going to add our highest value, it’s up to us to ensure the requester actually gets what they need to move forward in their world.

Sometimes the information we are asked for doesn’t make sense given what they are trying to decide or accomplish. When this happens, we can use YES + AND:

‘YES – I understand that you/they are looking for the ‘xyz’ information AND if I can better understand how it’s going to be used, I can get you what you need in a format you can use right away.’

(then) ‘Given what you are trying to communicate, the information you are asking for won’t really help.  A quick 15-minute conversation together will give me chance to get us both on the same page to get you what they need so you can effectively make the case. When can we do that?’

Sometimes a request doesn’t make sense because we are not the person that has the answers or owns that body of work. When that happens, we can use NO + AND to steer the conversation in a productive direction. It may sound like this:

‘NO – I’m actually not the one who has that information – AND I don’t want you to have to run around to get what you need. Here is my understanding of who would have that and the best way/timing/approach to get it quickly from them’.

Getting what we need to make good on that YES

Often we ARE the right person and we DO have the information, insights, or content that our colleagues or supervisors need. At the same time, requests that come in with low clarity and a fast-turnaround time can disrupt our progress on existing efforts and priorities. How do we say yes then? When we are asked to focus on something that will take us away from what we are doing, it’s up to us to manage that expectation. It might sound like this:

‘YES – I can get you that information for your meeting tomorrow AND for me to do that, I’ll be skipping the team meeting this afternoon to get you a draft by COB. I will need a response on the draft from you by 9 am tomorrow to make any other adjustments, so you have it for noon.’

If you are not sure what is OK to let go of or delay, you may need to engage your supervisor to help decide what the priority is. It might sound like this:

YES – I understand what you need and why, AND for me to get that to you by COB today, I’ll need your guidance on what to stop working on or delay for now as this will take me the rest of the afternoon. I have two internal stakeholder meetings scheduled and the event calendar is due today. Can you help me run interference on those?

Letting others know WHY you are saying no in ways that help them to move forward anyway

As an organization shifts and grows, roles and responsibilities and lines of the work shift and grow as well. While we may know who does what within our own unit, others that engage and rely on us may not.

Sometimes we end up with requests that are not appropriate for us, even though the requester would feel better if we did it. While this situation may be hiding a deeper problem, it is not up to us to fix it for others. Instead, we can use NO + AND to guide the requester back to those that are accountable for the work. It might sound like this:

NO – while I used to do some of that work, it’s now being done by this group AND it is important that they are the ones to advise you so everything stays integrated. While I understand you would prefer to engage with me, they are working hard to build the skills and responsiveness that you are looking for, and every time they have a chance to respond they get better at it. Let me suggest you contact (this person) and help them understand your overall intention and timeline and that will help them give you a firm date to access the content you are looking for.

How can you cultivate a culture of AND today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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