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Leadership Styles Part 2: Saying "No"
Last Post 25 Sep 2013 11:20 AM by Jen Stirrup. 5 Replies.
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Denise McInerney
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24 Sep 2013 08:24 AM  
PASS has a lot of passionate and creative people with many good ideas. Like all organizations we have finite resources, which means we can't do everything we want to do.One of the hardest things about being on the Board is saying "no" to a good idea. How would you approach that aspect of the job?
Amy Lewis
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24 Sep 2013 03:46 PM  
Denise,

I like your use of "finite" resources. As a mother of a 3 1/2 year old and almost 8 year old, saying no can be just as challenging, especially in the response to the "but why?".

Every suggestion shoulde be evaluated (whether at PASS BOD level, community level, etc) on 1. applicability to the PASS org., 2. on the practical limitations and costs of implementing vs the benefits to be received. The ending evaluation isn't always a "yes" or "no" and at times not a all or nothing as well. Parts of a suggestion may be implemented quicker than others. So, there can be cases of "Yes, but later" instead of a "no" and also a "No, but will keep it under advisement".

In any case,the resulting action should be supported using some of the deciding factors listed above and communicated as such. This brings about understand and transparency.

-Amy

Want to learn more about Amy? Please check out the below links:
Candidate Page: http://www.sqlpass.org/Elections/Ca...Lewis.aspx
Board Application: http://www.sqlpass.org/LinkClick.as...&mid=18041
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/amy-lew...9/47b/Edit
Neil Hambly
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24 Sep 2013 04:29 PM  
Hi Densie
We covered this as one of the questions in our Town Hall Chat today, my answer was primarily along the lines of a 'No' isn't the response we want to hear, but if the reasoning behind that decision to decline it is also conveyed then often the person receiving that 'No' , can be assured that it wasn't simply discarded or even considered on its merits, it may have been for budgetary or resources reasons or other restrictions that they do not know about

Sometimes an idea itself will need too much further development before it can be taken aboard
or perhaps evening the timing of the idea is not good

With the tone and other information given in the response, it can make a big difference in how that 'No' is received

Neil Hambly
http://www.sqlpass.org/Elections/Ca...ambly.aspx
Ami Levin
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25 Sep 2013 08:17 AM  
Hi Denise,

Thank you for bringing up yet another interesting point.

Saying ‘no’ is actually quite easy. It’s easy when you can clearly prove that idea is not feasible, won’t produce the required results, or may offend or damage anyone.
Saying ‘no’ is harder when the idea in front of you seems to have value. In those cases, the solution is simple. Don’t say ‘no’ - say ‘not now’. Eventually, it’s all a matter of priorities. Priorities should be revisited often so that an idea that was a ‘not now’ yesterday, may become the ‘ASAP’ of tomorrow.
As a board member of a start-up company with limited budgets, I’ve had a lot of experience of painful compromises and voting ‘not now’ to great ideas, some of them my own, because of the unavoidable need to prioritize resources and expenses.
In short, having a structured process to evaluate new ideas, keeping track of all initiatives that were postpone, and reevaluating them periodically is the key IMHO for successful ‘no’ management.

Thank you again,

Ami Levin

My Campaign Page: http://www.amilevin.com
My LinkedIn Page: http://www.linkedin.com/in/levinami
Richard Douglas
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25 Sep 2013 08:30 AM  
Hi Denise,

Andy Warren asked a question in another post inviting us to say no to one of his idea's I would like to put that example forward to show the kind of considered response members would receive should their idea not be possible:

SQLSaturday in Every State/Country. Tell me why we aren’t having at least one event in every US state? What about every country? PASS Board, you want to see a vision for growth, here it is.

Thank you for your idea Andy, however at the time we do not have the infrastructure or the finances in place in order to be able to undertake a task of the magnitude to which you are suggesting at this moment in time.

In order to clarify why this is not possible we need to look at the constantly changing landscape of world affairs. A quick internet search provides a number of different answers to the number of countries that exist ranging from 189 to 196 (The US State Department recognizes 194 according to http://www.worldatlas.com/nations.htm). This is a large number of events that would require more administrative staff with specific language and cultural skills than we presently have. It could also place a great financial burden on not only PASS but our sponsors which may detract from existing planned events on the calendar.

As a long term goal the vision is noteworthy, but I think we need to make this a staged approach. If you would permit me here is how I think we can turn the suggestion into a more reasonable and sustainable growth plan:

1. Make a prioritized list of languages that we feel would increase membership.
2. Create a new virtual chapter for each of the top 5 languages.
3. Report on engagement numbers and see if there are any volunteers in those regions that would be willing to either help lead or provide translation skills for organizing physical events.
4. Plan to hold 1 - 2 SQL Rally size events per year in each continent outside of the US where we have language support within the next n (possibly 3) years.
5. Revisit and reassess step 1 based upon outcome of growth and engagement of step 4 every year.

I hope that you understand the rationale behind the decision and would love to hear further input from you on this matter.
Thank you for your continued support of the community.

Regards,
Rich

As you can see what I am trying to achieve is to spend some time with the originator of the idea to develop their initial thought and take it to a place where we can give it the consideration that input from the community deserves.

Regards,
Richard Douglas
Jen Stirrup
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25 Sep 2013 11:20 AM  
I think that the 'copy and paste' email advised above misses the point somewhat, since it does not seem to echo the idea of listening to the individual(s), or taking them seriously. Getting a somewhat modified template answer just doesn't seem to fit with the energy that people have put into bringing an idea to you.

let me give you an example recently where an email precipitated a huge and very heated community debate - the closure of the MCM program.
In order to understand more about why this happened and to facilitate conversation and discussion between the community and Microsoft, I opened a Connect case, which ended up being the highest-voted SQL Server connect case with over a staggering 800 upvotes.
By opening a Connect case, I opened a two-way conversation which, unfortunately, ended up turning sour as people vented a very personal series of criticism on individual community members, which I will not deign to repeat here. Due to this, the Connect case was closed, unfortunately, since the Case was being dragged around by a tiny but extremely vocal minority who felt a Connect case was an appropriate forum to make personal and wholly unfounded criticisms of people who worked at Microsoft, or were attached to the Community in some way.

I then worked with Microsoft in order to host a conference call with the MCM community, whom I deeply respect. Despite the presence of the trolls on the Connect case, it was clear that there were a number of extremely smart engaged people, who had great ideas about the way forward for the MCM program and for MSL in particular. This was in despite of their huge personal disappointment at the closure of the program, which many had spent a lot of money, time and effort in participating.

I chaired the call between the MCM community and Microsoft, collating questions over a number of days and distilling them into a number of common themes due to the repetition of some questions.

Although the call did not produce the outcome that many wanted, it was at least a way forward for facilitating communication between Microsoft and the MCM community in a more formal environment, which reduced the heat of the Connect case which had been hijacked by trolls. It at least gave a voice to the MCM people who really deserved it, and had great questions and comments about the MCM closure decision, and plans for the way forward.

To summarise, this is an example where I've played a part in trying to resolve a very heated community situation, through communication, active participation in the community, and an absolute belief that the good hearts and best minds in the community deserved a hearing, as well as allowing Microsoft to have a say. Incidentally I'd like to thank Tim Sneath and his team for his time for making the time and facilities available to make the communication happen. I also found a way forward to deal with the trolls who were hijacking the normal means of communication i.e. by comments fired to a Connect case.

It was one of these situations where people deserved more than an email, and I think it was right to make it happen.

Saying no can be hard, but if you can clarify 'why not', then it can help to reach a common ground between yourself and the community. Sometimes what you mean is 'not yet'. Communication, and fair communication which isn't one-sided (like an email) isn't the way forward. it is too easy to email, and much harder to pick up the phone or do in-person - but the effort can be worth it.
Also, if it is a bad idea that morphs into a good idea after discussion, it is important to give credit where it is due.

I propose that sometimes picking up the phone, or a proper conference call, might be the way forward. It depends on lots of factors, such as the range of the idea, numbers affected, how the idea generators might take it, and so on. Whilst it is important not to get dragged around by a vocal minority, sometimes a simple conversation is all that it takes, and in today's connected world, there is no excuse not to do that.

I hope that helps.
Regards,
Jen Stirrup

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