Chris Liles: business mentor

YBS is a debilitating disease which has permeated all sectors of modern business. It attacks individuals, often without warning, damaging personal confidence. It may manifest as a multiple attack and frequently recurs. Corporately, it can stifle innovation, staff morale and achieving that vital edge. Your team members may be carriers, your boss or (shudder) even yourself. The good news is that it can be stopped instantaneously, although the scars YBS creates can remain for years. So what is this cancer of the workplace? Quite simply, YBS is the 'Yes – BUT syndrome'. What is 'Yes-but'? Well, imagine you've hatched a brilliant, innovative idea for boosting sales. You've thought it through carefully, planned your presentation over many late nights and have just delivered it excitedly to a Sales Conference. Sitting down, you are now expectantly awaiting the applause from the team and the recognition from your boss that you richly deserve. You are bubbling inside, at last you have made a real contribution to this team you recently succeeded in joining. Your boss listened intently and will surely now congratulate you on your innovation – perhaps instant promotion?

'Yes but … that is all very well. We tried something like it in 1976 and it flopped dismally. Also, our late Chairman didn't like the colour we used. Thank you for your idea; we encourage innovation in this organisation. Now has anyone else any other ideas to boost sales?'

You have just been 'Yes Butted'! How do you feel? Demoralised, deflated, angry, resentful? At the very least you will have decided this is the last time you suggest a new idea. It is easy to spread YBS since when anyone suggests something we spin it through our brains and inevitably identify problems. We happily trot out all the obstacles, thinking we are helping the process, whereas in fact we are spreading YBS … as a carrier.

Naturally feedback must be given but as the adage goes 'it ain't what you say' etc. You could acknowledge the good points of the idea then encourage further thought. Lead the person gently towards your areas of concern, rather than just spitting them out. They may have already identified that issue and found a solution, by stamping on them immediately, you will never know.

One of my teams identified YBS as a risk to their innovation and growth and agreed to pull each other up if they 'yes butted' any ideas. YBS comes in many guises including 'however', 'hold on', 'not likely' etc. The team subsequently developed many new ideas, a brilliant morale, achieved goals and everyone grew substantially.

So, do you like my idea to eliminate YBS? Oi... who said 'Yes but..?!'

Chris Liles helps small businesses get bigger and better. Contact: 07885 25 35 25 or Blogsite:

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