Last night I dreamt about Elvis Presley, the young, beautiful Elvis—before the pills, pork barbecue and polyester jumpsuits made him fat and sad. In the dream, I was arguing with Elvis, trying to convince him not to do something. But he wouldn’t listen. Young as he was, Elvis was already addicted to getting his own way. No one ever told him no.
It doesn’t take Dr. Freud to analyze why I had the dream. Yesterday, I had a painful encounter with a senior executive who felt his needs weren’t being met, so he was kicking and screaming and making people scramble.
This executive was no Elvis, yet he was just as spoiled. People who reported to him knew to answer every question with “Yes.” No one ever challenged him, pushed back or put him in the time-out chair until he calmed down.
The “never say no” dynamic has serious consequences. People stop sharing bad news with the executive because he doesn’t want to hear it. They don’t raise objections, even when they have legitimate concerns. They rush around trying to anticipate his desires instead of doing their jobs.
As a result, the executive gets what he wants. But he doesn’t get what he (or the organization) needs.
He may not end up like Elvis, but the outcome is sad just the same.