How to say NO

Interview with Liane Davey

In the modern workplace, conflict has become a difficult topic. After all, conflict is antithetical to teamwork, employee engagement, and a positive company culture. Or is it?

“No” is a sign of conflict and many avoid saying it by all means. But…

Why is saying no so hard?
How do we say no in the right way?
When should we say no?

In this episode, Liane Davey, who is the author of the book “The Good Fight”, and I will be discussing about how to say no effectively. I met her on Linkedin and we had a couple of messages and it was just really cool that we think the same way. Stay tuned because you’ll surely love it!

We discuss about the following points:

  • How to say no
  • How to build boundaries
  • How to say it effectively
  • How do we embrace conflict: The Good Fight Book
  • How buffer in our schedule and “no” relate to each other

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Liane Davey

PhD in Organizational Psychology

Liane Davey is a New York Times Bestselling author of three books, including The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Your Organization Back on Track and You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done. 

Known as the Water Cooler Psychologist, she is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and frequently called on by media outlets for her experience on leadership, team effectiveness, and productivity. 

As the co-founder of 3COze Inc., she advises companies such as Amazon, TD Bank, Walmart, UNICEF, 3M, and SONY. 


Alexander: You are listening to The Effective Statistician podcast, the weekly podcast with Alexander Schact and Benjamin Piske, designed to help you reach your potential, lead great sciences and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. Speaking about being overwhelmed, today we are talking about how to say no. And for that I have a very, very special guest. So hang in there, you’ll not regret it. Liane Davey is a book author who I met on LinkedIn. And we had a couple of messages, moving backwards and forwards and it was just really, really cool, how we, kind of, think the same way. And so we thought, how about doing an interview podcasting episode together. And that puts the episode our episode of today. You’ll really, really love it. There’s so much great content in it about how to say no, how to build boundaries, how to do it in an effective way. So, stay tuned for that. Saying no, is surely something you shouldn’t do at the PSI conference that is happening this year in June in Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s not only an awesome location, really your hotel is really nice. But it’s an outstanding conference. Lots of social gathering to meet, greet other people, outstanding content, you know, there’s a very very high competition to actually present at this conference so you can be assured that the quality of the presenters is much better than the typical statistics data science conference and it’s really applicable. They’re not these, kind of, ivory tower research presentations. It’s something that you can directly use for your work. So, see you in Gothenburg, head over to to learn more about the PSI conference and then register and see you there. Welcome Liane. How are you doing today? 

Liane: Oh, I’m wonderful, and I’m so excited for this conversation, Alexander. I’ve been looking forward to it since we first kind of got talking on LinkedIn. 

Alexander: Yeah. It’s a really fascinating place on LinkedIn, where you meet all kinds of interesting people. And so I’m really glad we connected there. And you’re very, very active on LinkedIn. Recently, you had a really issued nice thing called NOvember with capital N and O. How did that come about?

Liane: Yeah, so many years ago. I think it was 2012 or 2013. It was that time of year and I used to work in a consulting firm. And November used to just be the best in some sense, it’s where we made a lot of our money. But as a practice leader, as a salesperson, as a delivery person it meant that the month was just slammed. And so I was coming into November and just had this funny moment of thinking I have got to start saying no, to some things if I’m going to survive this month and that I thought, I started laughing and said, well, it is NOvember. And so, I wrote an article for psychology today, like 10 years ago, with sort of 10 things you could say no to if you wanted to be happier, healthier and more productive. And it was fun. And then, I left it for many years. And then three years ago, I decided this would be fun to do as a campaign for 30 days on LinkedIn, you know, sharing ideas. And it was, because in 2019, I really felt like this, what I describe as a plaque of activity, had really built up to the point that it was hurting our productivity. So, you know, whether it be a report that somebody asked us to create three years ago and we’re still spending six hours every month on it. And no one is actually reading it anymore. 

Alexander: Yeah, these kinds of zombie projects that are not alive. 

Liane: Yeah, so I just get this feeling by November. We have this incredible plaque building up and much like we have plaque in our arteries. It kind of constricts the blood flow of the really vital, you know, work of the organization or even the vital activities of our lives more broadly. So I thought okay, I’m bringing it back. And so, for the last three years, seven days a week, 30 days in November each year. I’ve done one thing a day that you can say no to if you want to be happier, healthier and more productive. And over the years, it’s gaining momentum, people are looking forward to it. I’ve had notes last year saying like I hope you’re doing NOvember again. And it’s been great, but it’s really an ethos and a philosophy that if we don’t constantly kind of get rid of that plaque that builds up, whether it be tasks or relationships, that just aren’t serving us anymore or activities. If we don’t get rid of that, we can’t say yes to the things that are meaningful, that excite us, that charge our batteries. So that’s why I love NOvember so much. Although I had done 60 days straight on LinkedIn by the end of November and had 5,000 comments. I responded to every single comment I received in those 60 days. And so by the end of November, I was kind of burnt out. So I declared Me-cember instead of December. I took a little bit of a break. 

Alexander: Yes, that’s good. Why do you think that it’s so hot to say no?

Liane: Yeah. I think because first of all biologically, as animals, you know, we were not the fastest, we didn’t have the sharpest teeth. We couldn’t climb trees as well as anybody else, but we did better than other animals, as we cooperated. I read the most fascinating quote recently. They asked the anthropologist Margaret Mead, what was her first evidence of humans as collaborative creatures. And it was so interesting because, you know, there are many things like drawings or evidence of campfires, or those sorts of things and she said no. The earliest evidence we have of humans having an advantage because we are cooperative people was they found a femur bone, a leg bone of a human from tens of thousands of years ago that had evidence that had been fractured and healed. And she said, any other animal in the animal kingdom a broken femur means you die. You can’t escape predators,you can’t get food and you die. So the fact that we had evidence that somebody had broken their leg and it had healed again meant somebody protected them. Somebody found them food. And she said that was the first evidence. I thought, okay, we’re fighting forces that are tens of thousands of years old when we, you know, when we ask somebody to say no to someone else. So we are instinctively cooperative, collaborative creatures. And so we start there and we add a bunch of socialization that says, good team players say yes, and those sorts of things and we sort of demonize the word no or people who say no. So there’s a lot, right from our DNA all the way to our socialization. And then, in our organizations, those values plaques on the wall about teamwork and there’s so much that makes it hard for us to say no. And yet, if we don’t overcome that, this plaque is going to give us a heart attack, right? We’re going to have such a build-up of things that don’t serve us that we are completely ineffective in doing the things that matter. So I have a lot of empathy for people who struggle to say no because I have a sense of how powerful those forces to say yes are, and yet, I really want to help people. 

Alexander: Yeah. And it’s different in different cultures, yeah, in different company cultures. There’s companies where, you know, everybody really wants to, please everybody. And then of course, you know, you also want to please everybody. And always say yes to everything.

Liane: I’m talking to a Canadian, a nation founded on the idea that maybe we can keep everyone happy by being mediocre and everything. So, yes, I feel you there. 

Alexander: That’s good. So in terms of saying no, how can we say that in a way that it’s comfortable for us, still firm and also keeps the relationship?

Liane:  Yeah, I think one of the things we need  is our leaders doing a much better job of reinforcing what matters and what’s most important so that when we need to say no, we can say it within the context of shared priorities. So, I always want us to start a no, the first technique I would say in saying no, is to actually help the person question whether that work needs to be done at all. So, if we go back to the idea of a report, because I find reports are one of those very serious plaques in organizations. Someone comes to us and says, hey, you know, I need you to prepare this report for this meeting. The first thing in a really productive no, is to actually help them evaluate, is that work worth doing at all? So, in doing that say, okay, tell me a little about, you know, where the request comes from, how you’re going to use the data, what are you trying to understand, what decisions will be based on these data? Those sorts of questions. If there aren’t good answers to the questions. It might be the person, kind of, goes, I don’t know, we just have always done this report and I didn’t want to do it anymore. So I was hoping you would do it. And it might be that you say, is that something we need but every month or would that make more sense to do quarterly? So there’s this opportunity before we even think about whether we’re saying no to add value in our organizations by just questioning the value of work in general. Where does this fit with our priorities? You know, we’ve decided we’re focused on the automotive sector this year. This report about the agricultural sector, where does it fit in our priorities? Those sorts of questions, so I’ll start there.

The next stage is about, if it’s a no for you I always start with what are you saying yes to. So maybe this is an agriculture report and you say, you know, I’ve committed with my manager this year to be focused exclusively on the automotive sector. So it’s not a fit for me. I can’t prioritize this. So what you’re doing is you’re saying yes, to something first, I’m saying yes to the automotive sector. That’s my focus. And then what you can do is you can help the person think about, you know, so first of all, you’ve decided it is worthy. It is work that needs to be done. Now, you’ve decided, although it’s worthy and needs to be done. It’s not a great fit for you. And one thing I often suggest is, can you diminish the request down.  You might say, you know what, I can’t write that report, but because I used to work in the agricultural sector. How about if we grab a coffee. And I spend 30 minutes and just share some of what I’ve learned that might be helpful and might make it faster for you. So you can diminish work. I can say, I’ll write the introduction or I’m great with pivot tables. So let me do the pivot tables for you because I can do those quickly and you do the commentary. So, you know, we start with questioning your work. Then we move to questioning our own involvement and it might be a pure no where we’re saying I’m committed to something else, I’m saying yes to something else. But it might also be, I’m going to diminish my role but still be helpful. And then you know, the next step is, okay, help them accomplish what they need to accomplish, even if it’s not going to be you. Hey, why don’t I pick up the phone and call Georg, because he would be great for this and I think if I asked him he’d be happy to do it.  So help the person solve their problems. So, you know, what you don’t want is to be the person that goes, oh yeah, no, I’m not doing that. The so-called sort of talk to the hand kind of person. You know, those people in organizations are infuriating and you don’t want that reputation. But if you get a reputation as somebody who helps them question the work and the value of the work, helps them diminish the work back to the most important, most valuable stuff, helps them find an answer. If the answer is not you, the relationship, first of all, I think the relationship is maintained. But second of all, I think your reputation starts to go up like, oh, that Alexander,  he’s like thoughtful. He’s on the ball. He’s like, what a great thought process. So I think there’s big advantages of doing something like that. So it’s not just the like, no go away. 

Alexander: Yeah, I’m completely with you. Having a discussion about these kinds of things, and not taking everything directly as this has top priority, needs to be done now to the full extent helps quite a lot to understand it. But of course, you need to understand the bigger picture. I actually do that. Yeah, so you got I think really the top priorities. 

Liane: Yeah, and that’s where we miss. So few leaders do the work and it’s okay within teams. I find it within a team or within a department. We have a sense of what matters the most. But across teams, you know, well, this is the number one thing on my priority list and you go to somebody you’re dependent on in another department. They, like, didn’t even make my list, so sorry that you need. And you’re,like, how did the leader somewhere further up allow this to cascade in a way that the number one most important thing, you know, say you’re releasing a new automotive product. And you know, marketing is like, oh no never heard of it, no. So that failure of leadership, that abdication of their responsibility to make priorities make sense. Not just down one chain of command but across an organization. That’s a big source of these conflicts and legitimate conflicts where, how did it get to be this thing that I have on my performance plan. And I have to deliver and yet the people and the resources I need to deliver don’t even know about it. That’s a real failure of leadership that I see constantly. 

Alexander: Yeah. Yes. I just completely agree, and I think one of the sources for that is this kind of fear of conflict. And it’s kind of some more you go higher up, sometimes the bigger it gets here. You have your sandbox, I have my sandbox and, you know, we both have our team’s actually need to work together, but we are just kind of nice to each other and just talk about things but never really decide whether A or B is more important and things like that. So it’s also kind of, if people never say no, at this higher level and therefore, you know, with no, you can start to go into some kind of conflict, use start to go into some kind of negotiation. There’s this really nice book about negotiations that’s actually called start with no, or something like this. How can we become better at embracing these conflicts?

Liane: That’s my life’s work. And yeah, so my most recent book is just all about it’s called The Good Fight. Because I think conflict has got a terrible reputation in organizations and that’s our peril that we avoid conflict. So I talked about the costs of what I refer to as conflict debt when there are, you know, conflicts that we need to work through, make a call and get to the other side of and yet we’re afraid of those conflicts. And you know that conflict debt affects innovation, affects productivity, affects trust and engagement on teams, affects our stress level. So we’re paying this significant price for our avoidance of conflict. So this is what I’m spending my life working on is, how do we get better at it? I think the first thing is to normalize conflict as an essential part of organizations. And I went back to a definition of conflict in Merriam Webster and I love this definition. It’s conflict is the struggle between incompatible or opposing needs, wishes and demands. And all of sudden you say that you like, no, there don’t have to be bombs, no, there doesn’t have to be, you know, punching and fighting and screaming and yelling, conflict is a struggle between incompatible and opposing needs, wishes and demands. Well, you know, by 11:00 on your average work day, you’ve had 10 of those. We have scarce resources. We would like to be in two places at the same time. We have to pick a strategic project over another strategic project or something as simple as we have to respond to one customer’s email, before the others, that’s still a conflict.So first of all, we have to start by going back to basics about what is conflict and changing our minds that are on the fact that conflict is non-negotiable in organizations, it’s a given. The next thing that I do with teams is some process that I created where we talk about one of the things. I don’t know if you have this in Europe, but in North America are predominant metaphor and image around teamwork is people rowing. 

Alexander: Oh, yeah. 

Liane:  It makes me nuts because rowing in all the languages were all in the same boat. We’re all pulling in the same direction. Don’t rock the boat. It’s a very anti-conflict metaphor. What I’ve been doing is creating this metaphor and I talked about it as, imagine all of our stakeholders are sleeping in a tent and it starts to pour rain. We have to take this plastic tarpaulin, this rain fly, this small rain fly. We have to stretch it as much as we can and kind of position it well so we stay dry. That is more what an organization should feel like. We’re not pulling in the same direction, where each pulling a rope in a different direction, trying to put tension, make this talk, to make it stretch and we’re trying to optimize that so that depending on which way the wind is blowing we’re creating as much protection as possible. So from this silly metaphor or story of if we’re trying to protect a tent from the rain, from there we can get to this point of an exercise where we take a team and we say, for each role for each seat at this table. What’s the unique value you need to bring, who are the stakeholders that you’re representing, and what’s the tension that you’re obliged to put on our conversations? And as you answer those three questions something miraculous happens, people realize, Oh, we’re here to do very different things and those things are going to be in tension with one another. So imagine the sales leader who’s there to, you know, really differentiate the product and create the perfect customization for his client, his customer. So that’s exactly what they need. There’s a strong pull toward, you know, making it as cheap as possible so the customer will buy it. At the same table, the operations lead is there to standardize and to create consistency. So it’s more efficient, so say and go, oh no wonder this doesn’t feel good on the average day. That conflict, that tension between customization and serving a specific customer’s needs and standardization and being more efficient. That should always be there. I always say if sales and operations aren’t fighting, sell your shares because I know now we’re good, right? Absolutely. Now, we’re good. 

Alexander: Yeah, because this conflict, if not resolved on the higher level , trickles down through the organization and it, you know, blocks the overall organization because nobody moves forward.

Liane: Right, right. And so, if the leaders abdicate responsibility for that highest level conflict, it will be the conflict debt, the saddest thing is that at some point someone’s going to make a decision. So true story,  I’m working with a massive retailer, a name you would know very well. And the CEO was very conflict avoidant. And the CEO, they were trying to launch a bank. So they were trying to put out credit cards. They were trying to figure out where to build new stores and they were trying to support their charities. And instead of saying what do we want to happen at the cash register this month, have that fight about what was the priority, the CEO didn’t do that. And that conflict debt fell all the way down to the cashiers. And so the cashiers literally in a given month, were expected to ask for a credit card application at the checkout. They were asked to ask for the postal code so that they knew where people were coming from and where they needed to build a store and a donation to the children’s charity. So obviously, when people are lined up six carts deep with ice cream melting, obviously the cashier is not going to do all three of those things. But the cashier, making minimum wage was the one deciding, was the bank more important or the new store development or the corporate social responsibility. So the CEO didn’t have the guts to make that call. And yet expected, every single one of the cashiers making minimum wage to make that call. 

Alexander: I know, I have been in this situation, exactly. You have, you know, multiple studies coming in, yeah, at the same time. And you need to kind of deliver on all of them, and you took, you know, and also different Physicians, you work with say, my study is the most important one. And he said, Well, I have only so much time, if you don’t make a call and you don’t get together on it, I’ll decide.

Liane: Wait, I’ll pick the one I like best and of course, what employees often do is they pick the one attached to the scariest person. So if you know that one of the physicians is particularly grumpy, and she’s going to be like, first, she’s going to be emailing you and then she’s going to start phoning you and she’s going to yell at you. You just do that one first because it’s not necessarily the most strategic or the most important, but as a human, if you get to make that call, well, I’m going to make my life less unpleasant. So much of my work is around helping set people up to understand that conflict, that saying no, that these tensions aren’t necessary and important part of organizations that we have language and we have ways to talk about those tensions and to understand it as an obligation of filling a role is that you advocate on behalf of your stakeholders that you bring diverse and dissenting opinions based on your expertise that you live into that obligation for tension. And that when we do that exercise with a team, it is ridiculous how quickly it just clicks. They go, I get it, I see it. And then they can use that language and they have a way of talking about, you know, have we got this decision, kind of, centered? Is anybody getting wet in this decision? You know, they just have a fun way of talking about what before the exercise has been very uncomfortable. Now, it’s still uncomfortable. But now we all understand. It’s not just that I’m uncomfortable, it’s not that you’re being a jerk. We’re all having to manage the discomfort of scarce resources. Being applied in the optimal way. So yeah, it’s wonderful work. It’s amazing when you see the light bulbs go on for people and they realize that oh, actually, I have an obligation to have conflict in order to say no. 

Alexander: Yeah. Yeah, I completely agree. So if now you have a colleague that always says yes. And you think like, this is not going to work or maybe even worse, they say yes and but then cannot deliver. And you know, how do we get them to say no. 

Liane: So I tend to switch when you have people who just are not comfortable saying no, I switch from yes no to when.

Alexander: Oh, yeah.

Liane: So it’s interesting. I’ve been working on helping leaders with what I call ruthless prioritization. And there are some leaders who just cannot cope with saying that something is a lower priority. They just can’t do it, like, but these are all priorities. 

Alexander: So, you know, the funny thing about it is originally, priority was only singular.

Liane: Prior, like, get back to your Latin people. You can’t have more than that. 

Alexander: There’s only one 1, not many ones. 

Liane: Yes. Yes. I am very much with you. And it seems to be a battle that I will lose. Well, just, even people understanding words and the power of words and what they’re supposed to mean, I lose that battle often. And so when I give up, I switch from forcing them to talk about things in priority and I switch to talking about them in phase. So, you know, if I can only, if any human can really only do one task at a time, which one do you want me to do first? So I think the person who’s constantly saying yes to you. It’s asking some questions to understand what are all the things they’ve said yes to? And getting a sense of where in that list can they place your yes? And just helping them, you know,  and, and if that is what it is for them, as they want to please you, they want to be helpful. Well, let’s understand that. That’s nice. That’s a good thing. And so making it clear that, you know, I’m so glad. You said yes to this. Now, I love to understand, you know, where this fits and I know you’ve got a lot of things you’re working on. Can you share with me some of the things that are on your list? Can we talk about where this might fit? Could we talk about what it would take to move it up in your list to make it sooner? So somehow for some people, these are probably the ones whose DNA is particularly strong on the collaboration and cooperation side. It’s easier for them to say yes and to negotiate on, when as opposed to asking them to say no, which they just won’t feel that they’re able to do. That’s another approach that you can try. 

Alexander: Yeah, I think there’s also these techniques that help you do this, like the kanban board, where you are forced to have only so many things in your columns that you’re actually doing at the moment that helps to kind of streamline things. 

Liane: Although humans are crafty, wily creatures. Because what I find then is then people just, it’s like a shell game. It’s like my closet, they just shove so many things into that. So they named the tasks. Actually, I was literally talking to a client this week and we had built out. We started with a draft of nine strategies and went down to six that the corporation was going to work on. And she said, we’ve come down to only three. But she admitted because I hadn’t worked with them for a while. She admitted that one of them was to build a SAS company. Like, okay, if you think that’s a strategy like a 10-year, so we can have those boards. But if we’re not understanding the discipline that this is about understanding what we’re doing and what we’re not and if we just put the thing on the board, that’s so huge and we couldn’t agree.That’s like so, you know, when you try and use those tools with people who psychologically don’t understand the value and the importance of saying no, they’re still going to wreck the tools. They’re going to sabotage the tools by saying something like our SAS business as one. Humans were crazy creatures.

Alexander: Instead, which of ten books do you want to write? I can protest. I’ll write a library. 

Liane: Yeah, the 10 volume encyclopedia. You know, that really was true. I used to start my speeches because my whole mission in life is to help people achieve amazing things together so I’m a teamwork expert. And I used to start my speeches, talking about Pliny, the Elder. So Pliny, the Elder was one guy, who in the year 72, wrote the encyclopedia of everything known to mankind. I like, wow one dude could write, you know, everything known to mankind. Sadly, right after he published it, he got wiped out when the eruption of Mount Vesuvius happened. I’m like, oh, it sucks. So, ever since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius it is pretty much, you know, a team to do everything else we do in the world these days. But Pliny the Elder, one dude, all things known to man in his encyclopedia. I love that story because it just reminds me that it’s been a while since we could do anything on our own. 

Alexander: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. As he was one of the topics that I wanted to cover and that is buffer. And we had some kind of discussion about buffers on LinkedIn. I’m a big fan of building buffers into our systems, yeah, into our plans. So that when we let’s say a plan for what we get done in the year, yeah. We leave something like 10 to 20% in there. Where we say, well, that’s we don’t plan for that. I just plan from 80% and then the rest will be for emergencies, it’s for when things actually take longer. What, of course, they never do and things like this. 

Liane: And the pandemics, throw that in there. 

Alexander: That’s, the unknown unknown, so to say. Yeah, yeah. So, what’s your take on the buffer? 

Liane: Yeah, so I was so excited when you were sharing with me. So I was, you know, writing on LinkedIn about how inhumane it is when we expect and plan for perfect productivity. And you see this all the time. You see people with Microsoft Project, Gantt charts. And they take how many engineers they have, and the 37.5 hours a week and all the tasks that they’re going to do and they go to the plan for full productivity. And so I was talking about how inhumane it is, how inefficient it is, because if all of a sudden, you’ve planned for perfect productivity and something goes wrong, the whole dominoes fall, and you can actually, you know, drop to highly ineffective. So, I was so excited when you shared that there is math. There are, you know, ways of understanding in a complex system. What’s the top and I did have fun in maybe you can share it in the show notes. The professor’s talk and was very relieved that YouTube had a great translation. So I didn’t have to figure it out in German, but it was great to see that that 80% is real. And if we understand that one tiny thing is going wrong, and it could be something so small. The subways are down on a given day and somebody who you would expect to be able to come for a meeting isn’t there. And so that meeting doesn’t happen. So this decision hasn’t been made. So, we’re behind two days on this coding or whatever it is. If you’ve planned for 80%, then that one subway delay doesn’t throw anything off, you can recoup. But if you don’t plan for it, then that bumps up against the next problem, and the whole thing collapses. So, you know, I love that you were sharing with me, the mathematical kind of underpinnings of it. And of course, me as an organizational psychologist, I’m thinking of the human experience of it and what happens if you know, you have that slack, the person sitting on that subway stuck in the tunnel or the pretty people sitting in the meeting room waiting for them. Don’t have to have the same anxiety. Don’t have to have the same stress and fret. They don’t immediately switch to mistrust. Oh, you know, yeah, I bet the subways are done. And all of the toxic humans are just the nasty stuff that we go to when we’re under undue stress. None of that has to happen if there’s enough breathing space. So I just loved that we’ve got this sort of mathematical way of looking at the world and if we pair it with the human experience of these sorts of things, we just see why it’s so very important that we plan for 80% not planning for full productivity. And it was interesting that after our conversation I was working with a team from a global software company and I was putting this out there and the team leader at the end of the conversation, just said there, he’s a vice president in a massive machine, he just said, yeah well, we’re not going to be able to do that. So on we go it was just a given that they’re a US based, Silicon Valley based organization, which will never even tolerate the discussion of should we plan for 80%. So, I may be a little demoralized, but all the more fiery about why you and I need to do. 

Alexander: Yeah. I think I completely agree. It’s inhumane, yeah, and it’s again, kind of avoiding the tough discussion about what’s really important.

Liane: Yeah. Yes. It is a conflict isn’t it? It’s just another conflict at. 

Alexander: Yeah, and because it’s again, kind of, a situation where, well, if you don’t plan for any interruptions, failures, problems, whatsoever, then you just plan for failure. And if you don’t want to plan for it, and you know, someone else needs to do the prioritization somewhere. And if then all the time leadership sits in the back of these people and also necks all these people. Kind of like, yeah, you need to do this, you need to do this, you need to get it done. People are more or less forced to work long hours. And especially kind of in situations where there’s lots of handoffs between teams, yeah. 

Liane: Yeah. That’s where the mistrust comes from, right? That’s where it, you know, I always talk about a conflict debt has penalties and interest we need to pay. Those are the penalties and interest. We didn’t have the hard prioritization, conversation, and upfront. And now when something slips, we pay this penalty in mistrust between the teams because we don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, right? We jump to, they don’t deliver or they’re not reliable or, you know, they pick somebody else’s project over ours because they don’t like us or you know, we go to that negative stuff, so that interest, that compounding interest on the initial conflict debt because we didn’t prioritize is that’s the really, really costly stuff both for our organizations, but also for engagement, for stress levels, that’s what’s really weighing us down. 

Alexander: Yeah. And I’ve even seen organizations that go beyond that, yeah. Where leaders say, let’s pressure test these assumptions. And then, you know, they every, you know, supervisor needs to have another discussion with the team about count we kind of, take off another 10 or 20 percent and then, you know, you’re not even planning for perfect productivity or planning for. You’ll be the superhero and everything will be even better than anticipated. 

Liane: When I ran a consulting practice, our budgeting was so awesome because they’d say to us, okay, you know, you need to do your next year’s budget. And so you’d understand some sense of how much demand was in the marketplace and you look at how many people you had and how much they could sell and you do all of this and you come with, you know, here’s our number and then they would just come back to you with 125% of that number. Maybe just give it to you like. Well, I’m so glad that I did all that work. So now I’m very clear on how inhumane your expectations are and unreasonable your expectations are, yeah. And it’s just this, you know theater like, planning theater that goes on every year. It has no basis in reality. It is not making us more efficient. It’s only making us less agile, less resilient, and heck of a lot more stressed out. So we’re kidding ourselves and you know, it’ll be interesting to see if post pandemic, you know, if you think about one of those pushes for efficiency that existed, it was just in time supply chain was one of the ultimate examples of, can’t we carve a little more of, a little more of, a little more of, a little more of? And in creating ultra efficiency, of course, what we now know is ultra efficiency is in tension with agility. We lost all our agility. So, you know, I think there will be a backing off of that ultra efficiency in our supply chains because we need to protect resilience and agility which we lost. So I’m going to be interested to see, do we learn that lesson also on efficiency more broadly, do we begin to learn that with people as well as cargo ships that we had ultra efficiency actually is so detrimental to resilience and agility that it’s not worth it? We need to leave that buffer. So that’s what I will be voting for,  if I get a vote.

Alexander: Yeah, completely agree. It’s a much more relaxed way of working and then you can actually also say yes to all those things outside of work with, I think it’s really important. 

Liane: Exactly. Exactly. So yeah, I think I’m certainly cheering for that as a bit of an epiphany. Hopefully, that will have come from pushing things to the breaking point. 

Alexander: Yeah. Thanks so much. We started with discussing about NOvember and why it’s important to say no, we touched on healthy conflict, and we talked about buffers. I really recommend reading the book, The Good Fight. It’s really cool to read it. It’s really insightful. There’s lots of kinds of shifts in terms of mindset, what you can do better there. And are there any kind of final things that you would like the listener to go away with? 

Liane: Yeah, absolutely. I would say on the idea of no and on the idea of conflict, it’s really up to all of us to find out what is worth fighting for. There are stakeholders counting on you, your own life, your own time, your own family, your expertise. There are things worth fighting for and that tends to make me feel a little more courageous. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like saying no. But when I can understand and visualize what I’m fighting for, what I’m saying yes to, it makes it all easier for me. So some things are worth fighting for. And if, you know, if you want to be a part of these conversations, certainly follow me on LinkedIn, connect there, because we are just, I’m trying to make my LinkedIn page the coolest couch on the internet, if you want to talk about these kinds of interesting topics, so I would love everyone’s expertise, and everyone’s different perspectives. So I would love it if folks popped over to LinkedIn and kept the conversation going. 

Alexander: Yeah, for sure. I did that and I’ve seen lots of really great stuff. So thanks so much for that. 

Liane: My huge pleasure and, and what a joy to speak of you Alexander. It was amazing. 

Alexander: This show was created in association with PSI and the PSI conference happens in June this year. So don’t miss it. Thanks to Reine and her team who help the show in the background. And thank you for listening. Reach your potential, lead great sciences and serve patients. Just be an effective statistician. 

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