Good Leaders Don’t Surround Themselves With “Yes” People

When you’re hiring, your initial instinct might be to build your company full of people pleasers. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have people who are more than willing to help? You probably also like the fact that your new hire wants to explore new opportunities and they are extremely reliable.

John Rampton
Dec 7, 2020 · 5 min read

If you’re fortunate, as you suppose, your new hire will probably even share similar backgrounds and interests. And, you probably won’t have to worry about them causing any trouble — like questioning your leadership skills.

Sure. In theory, that sounds like a good deal. Realistically, though, only surrounding yourself with “yes” people is a terrible, no good idea.

The dangers of “yes” people.

The major drawback of people pleasers is that they have problems with time management. Because they’re willing to lend a hand or take new responsibilities they fall behind deadlines. Also, since “no” isn’t in their vocabulary, they end-up stretching themselves way too thin.

Eventually, that reliability that made them an asset is out the window — they may even become resentful of you. They’re now scrambling to catch-up. And, that’s just a one-way-ticket to Burnoutville.

What’s more, they also have difficulty maintaining a healthy relationship with work and life. Everyone, no matter who you are, needs time away from work. It’s a proven way to rest and recharge so that you can be at 100% peak productivity.

Being on all of the time may also cause problems with their personal relationships. Instead of attending a family gathering, they’re trapped in the office working on next week’s presentation. That may not seem like a bid deal, but relationships are the key to happiness — and if you’re not happy, you’re not productive.

As if that weren’t enough, they are unwilling to share with you critical feedback. As a consequence, this may prevent you from correcting workplace operations. They may also be hesitant to make suggestions on how to improve the products or services you offer.

Also, if they aren’t transparent with you, then don’t expect them to critique you. I understand that hearing constructive criticism is never easy. But, it’s essential if you want to grow as a person and leader.

The solution? Well, as industrialist and founder of Wrigley Chewing Gum Walter Wrigley Jr. once said, “When two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

In other words, don’t surround yourself with “yes people.” Instead, have a diverse team that challenges you. And, you can do that by…

1. Fill in the blanks.

Take a good look at your team. What skills are lacking? How diverse is your current staff?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. Hiring someone based on specific needs is obvious. For example, if you need a coder, then you’re going to go out and find the best one available But, the second question can be tricky.

“Although you own the business, don’t be fixated on hiring people from only particular backgrounds,” recommends Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “After all, the business world is very dynamic. To ensure you are adaptable to inevitable changes, get employees from as many backgrounds as possible.”

“As much as where the concerned employee is coming from is important, it is their potential to grow with your business that really matters,” adds Choncé. “In just about five to ten years, your business is going to change. Ask yourself where the concerned employee fits in the whole picture.”

If need further assistance hiring a diverse team, here is a 6-step process from Ideal:

2. Grant autonomy.

While there are times when you might have to micromanage your team, most of the time you need to grant autonomy. For control freaks, that can induce a panic attack. However, it’s one of the best ways for your team to learn and grow.

More importantly? Giving your peeps this type of freedom keeps them motivated and engaged. And, on your end, you’ll have less on your plate.

Simply put. Autonomy is a win for everyone from the top to the bottom. And, despite your fears, it’s easy to implement if you do the following:

3. Listen effectively.

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say” — Andy Stanley

Arguably, one of the most important traits leaders can have is to actually listen to what others are saying. Sometimes that can be as easy as speaking less and asking lots of questions. Other times you may need to utilize techniques like not going into the conversation with an agenda.

Overall though, getting back to communication basics is your best course of action. I’m talking about making eye contact, not looking at your phone, and responding accordingly. You may not like what you’re hearing, but that’s no excuse to lose your cool.

4. Let them fail.

As someone who has experienced failure, I can tell you that it’s never a pleasant experience. At the same time, failure has pushed me to become more resilient. I’d even say that it’s been the greatest teacher I’ve ever had.

With that in mind, let your team have an occasional setback. I know that just the thought of this may keep you up at night. But, it will encourage them to grow as individuals and think innovatively.

In the immortal words of Micheal Jordan, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

5. Seek out different perspectives.

Outside of work, you should also surround yourself with people who challenge you. Besides helping you embrace this at work, it will help you become a better person. And, you can do so by:


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