Learning to Say No Using Collected Data

Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally



"I was working together with a CEO on our second startup. The first startup we did was super successful and went public. However, the second one was not as successful. The CEO was clearly making terrible decisions and running the organization in 15 different directions. All he wanted was more and more features and so he just kept piling them one on top of another. Additionally, whenever somebody would ask for something, he would always say yes. It began taking a toll on me and my team, while simultaneously slowly destroying the business."

Actions taken

"Fortunately, the organization replaced the CEO with a new one. Unfortunately, the new CEO liked to scream and yell. However, setting his temper aside, the new CEO made changes that saved us all. He had us begin collecting data. We implemented a very disciplined process where we put all of our customers in Salesforce and all of our problems in Jira. Anytime there was a feature request or a bug, the sales engineers would look in Jira to see if they could find something similar to it. Then, they would add a link so that the information between Jira and Salesforce was coupled. Next, we could dump out all of that data onto an excel sheet and create a report that showed very clearly the amount of bugs we fixed for a particular customer, how many were still open, how many features they asked for, and how many we had given them. This armed the sales people to give a confident answer to the customer when a new feature request came in. Essentially, it helped the team learn how to say no."

Lessons learned

  • "You only have so many hours in the day. Therefore the key to success is learning how to say no and what to say no to."
  • "Luckily, in my case, we had a CEO come in who was able to take charge and manage the situation. Sometimes this doesn't happen, though, and in those cases you must defend the bandwidth of you and your team. To do so, come up with a plan. Make a list of all of the things that are on your plate and your team's plate. For each of those, think about what is most important and how much time you need to allocate for those items. Then bring this information to your boss. Familiarize them with the plan that you want to execute and ask if they are okay with it. It's way easier for your manager to agree on something then for you to come to them with the problem of 'working too much' and having them figure it out. Bring them a solution, not a problem."

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Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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