"Say no, more than you say yes."
This is probably one of the most popular advice given to new product managers.
But the problem is that most new product managers do not know how to say no, convincingly.
So today, I am going to share a few techniques that will help you say no effectively.
But before that, let us answer two crucial questions.
Why are we afraid to say no
- Saying no to more experienced and knowledgable stakeholders requires strength. Many of us aren't strong enough, especially when we are just starting our careers.
- We wrongly assume that saying yes makes us more likeable, which in turn helps us build relationships.
- Saying no is confrontational and, maybe, a little hurtful. And we are not comfortable with either.
Why is it important to say no
Saying no will be good for your product and for your career.
Saying no to the ideas that are not critical to the product's success is as vital as saying yes to the ones that are. By saying no, you ensure that your roadmap consists only the most critical tasks.
Every time you say no for the right reasons, you win trust and respect from others. And that empowers you to ship bigger features and become a better product manager.
Here are the top 4 techniques to say no effectively:
When you decide (based on an objective evaluation of the request) to say no, this is how you should do it.
1. Be understanding.
Really understand why they think their request is important.
- "Why is it important?"
- "Why should we do it now? What do we lose if we do it later?"
- "What is the impact in the next 6/9/12 months?"
Their answers will either convince you that their request is genuinely worth considering. Or it will make them understand that the other items deserve to be higher on the list. And as a result, their requests cannot be added to the roadmap.
2. Communicate effectively and regularly.
Regularly publish the company's goals and your plan to achieve them. Deliver this message effectively by using the channel and language that your stakeholders understand.
This will make them appreciate your situation and calmly accept your decision.
3. Be transparent and data-oriented.
Openly share your priorities and prioritisation methodology. Help them understand the rationale for saying yes to some items and no to others. Always use data to support your decision.
4. Know your product.
Whenever others disagree with you, they will challenge your decision. The only way to win is to have logical, accurate and comprehensive responses. And that is possible only if you know your product better than everyone else.
So with that, I'll leave you with a question. What are the techniques that work for you when you have to say no to your stakeholders?
Here are some interesting responses from product managers on Reddit.Card Card Card Card Card
You can read all the comments here.
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