Set up every yes for success

Remember, every good no allows you to give great yeses—saying yes to collaboration, saying yes to an opportunity to add value and build a relationship.

But to truly make an impact, you must set up each yes you give for success.

Every yes deserves a plan for focused execution. The execution plan is the key to a great yes. Some yeses are short and sweet, but they still deserve a plan, however short and sweet. Every yes is a commitment, and every commitment deserves to be taken seriously and honored with a good plan and focused execution.


Create an intake memo

The most reliable way to make a positive impact right from the start, before you’ve even begun on the project, is to tune in to the other person’s ask.

Start to gather the information you need as a first step in your due diligence process:

  1. What is the date and time, for tracking evolutions in the project?
  2. Who is the asker?
  3. What is the deliverable being requested? Be specific.
  4. What is the delivery date?
  5. What are the specifications?
  6. What are the resources that will be required?
  7. What is the source of authority? Who’s asking for it? Who’s authorizing it? Has it already been approved? If so, by whom?
  8. What are the possible benefits, hidden costs, unsurfaced objections, toes to be stepped on?


Consider the No Gates

Before saying yes, make absolutely sure that your response shouldn’t be a no or a maybe first.

These are the No Gates:
No . . .

. . . I physically cannot do it because I don’t have the necessary experience, skill, knowledge, time, or tools.

. . . I am not allowed to do it because it is against the law, rules, procedures, or marching orders from my boss.

. . . I should not do it, at least right now, because there are other items higher on my current priority list, I don’t think it’s a good idea, or the ask is still not sufficiently clear.

Remember, maybe is always an option.


End the conversation by clarifying next steps

If you have done a really good job tuning in to the ask, doing an intake memo, and framing the ask in terms of the basic elements of a proposal, and seriously considered the No Gates, then you should have a pretty good idea of what you are committing to when you say yes. Still, if you are not yet accustomed to working together with the asker—if they are not one of your regular customers—there will be plenty of details to clarify about how you are going to do business together. Don’t take the details for granted or you will likely have one small surprise after another.

Yes is the time to really pin down the commitment with a plan of action, especially for a deliverable of any scope. How do you move the conversation from yes to a plan? By asking the platinum question: “How can I help you help me help you?”

In other words:

  • What ground rules might you need to establish for working together?
  • What will be your cadence of communication, where, when, and how?
  • In terms of the work: Who is going to do what, where, why, when, and how? You need to agree on the sequence, timing, and ownership of all the steps.

End every conversation by clarifying who owns which next steps and scheduling your next follow-up conversation. The punch line is always the next steps. Planning is the key to successful execution. Plan the work so you can work your plan.


Want more tips like this?

Find more insight, advice, and tips like this in The Art of Being Indispensable at Work.

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