Last week I went to Chicago to sit in on the AALL Executive Board’s Spring meeting. I also crashed a couple of TechShow parties while I was there, just for fun. During the Thursday morning stragegy meeting, the presenter, Paul Meyer, consultant with Tecker International, made a comment that resonated with me. Paul talked about the trap that members of a non-profit executive board fall into, especially one where there is a lot of member input and volunteerism involved. The trap is that whenever a suggestion or proposal is made by the members, the answer the Board has to the proprosal is never a “Yes/No” answer. Instead, the answer is:


Of course, I’m paraphrasing Paul’s actual statement. He went on to talk about why it is the resposibility of the Board to sometimes say No, and explain why we had to turn down the proposal (money, time and resources were the main contributors.)

It made me think back to last year’s PLL Luncheon when a consultant spoke about librarians never saying “No” to anything, but instead saying “Yes, we can do that is we have X number of Dollars, and Y number of People, so what can we do to get those dollars and people?”

I understand both consultants’ meaning here and know that the difference between saying “No” and saying “Yes, with conditions” is really determined by the audience to whom you are talking. The thought that’s been lingering around my mind over the weekend has been focused on whether many librarians are overusing the “WhatCanWeDoToFixThisSoWeWon’tHaveToSayNo” option and not using either the “No” or “Yes, with conditions” options at all? We do not like saying no, and we are not all that fond of saying yes, with conditions either. However, it would suit us well to brush off our “No’s” every once in a while because in order to be a leader, it is necessary from time to time to understand that leadership sometimes means saying no.