The Yes And Myth


The latest workplace communication craze called “Yes and” has recently been popularized by team builders and improv folks who’ve never stepped into the business board room. It’s a technique that minimizes disagreement and encourages agreement. So, instead of responding to a team member’s idea with a “No” or a “But,” people are trained to respond with a “Yes and….”

I recently worked with an executive team in Denver, Colorado that had been trained in this technique. We found that the “Yes and” response had been so ingrained into this leadership team’s vernacular that team members actually forgot how to disagree with each other. They had been so conditioned about the importance of agreement that the team rarely had lively and passionate debate around the key issues in the business.

They stopped doing the very core of what leadership teams are supposed to be doing. That is – they stopped having the dialogue and debate and conflict that it takes to make the consequential decisions for the organization.

What was the impact? Lack of clarity. Surface level relationships. Longer decision making as nods in meetings rarely turned into true commitment.

“Yes and” is about as effective as “consensus.” They are both good techniques. But they are better suited for company picnics and bowling outings than they are for real business decision making.  Don’t get me wrong. It’s absolutely critical to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. In fact without that level of involvement, you’ll never truly achieve buy in.

But striving for agreement is a mistake. Instead, strive for commitment.

And the only way to get commitment is through disagreement first.