Monday, March 21, 2011

Saying "No" - Maybe you meant to say "Yes"

As an officer, you are a person in authority.  Many questions will come to you for decision.  The choice you make in the mere saying of "Yes" or "No" may constitute the measure of your success.  A weak man will say "Yes" when it takes courage to say "No", thus sometimes destroying policies which may have been wisely conceived.  Or an unwise man may say "No" when he should say "Yes", and by obstruction destroy the morale of an entire group of men.  It takes a happy combination of courage and wisdom to say "No" at the right time and in the right place.  Small as the word may be, it will have a profound effect upon the success of any person who is placed in authority.

The manner of expression, also, is important.  Some officers have the happy faculty of refusing a request without causing resentment or unhappiness.  For others, the opposite is true.  Some cannot help being disagreeable about a refusal and thus cause resentment.  Many years ago a staff officer observed that, while the Admiral disapproved many requests which reached him, nearly all officers who left his cabin were in good humor.  The staff officer asked the Admiral what method he used.  The Admiral replied,
"I have mediated long and hard on the importance of saying 'no'.  There are different ways of saying it.  I can think of it as one word, or 25 words or 500 words.  The one-word 'No' is for the multitude of small decisions , impersonal in nature, which you continually bring to my desk.  The 25-word 'No' is for disapproving a request or recommendation made by a valued subordinate who needs to know something of my reasons, so that he will not be deterred from making further suggestions.  I save the 500-word 'No' for disapproval of those occasional embarrassing demands which reach me from Big-and-Little Potentates and Grand Pooh-bahs, whose fleeting positions of importance make it inadvisable for me to antagonize them by denying requests which my conscience tells me not to grant.  In this way, I try to solve the wounds of those who depart without achieving their ends.  But there is the interesting dividend which, surprisingly, accrues from this method-by forcing myself to present sound and acceptable reasons for each refusal, I often discover that, after all, the correct answer is 'Yes'."

The Naval Officer's Manual
July 1951
Rear Admiral Harley Cope, USN - retired

"NO" - maybe it's another way to say "Yes".


Curtis said...

flags fail on the first principle of honor. they will not say no to stupid things committed to by other flags. In other words, no flag will ever say no to another flag. Diving for the bottom is the sole point of being a flag. Kind of pathetic really.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...


I think you have overstated your position here. I can cite examples to refute every statement you have made here. You must know a different group of Flags than I do.

HMS Defiant said...

You and I happen to turn out to be peers so why don't I just offer up a single sample of one flag officer telling another one no?

Because I can't.

You try it.

I worked for VADM Costello, ADM Fargo, ADM Nathman, and one hell of a lot of other admirals. What I wrote was what one of my friends who was promoted Admiral actually told me. Learned at knife and fork school. One admiral never ever ever says no to another one.

The one solitary example that stood out was Sestak getting instantly fired on the new CNO's first day on the job.

The other take down I saw and projected was RADM Bullard who clearly in his last SVTC had been schooled either by a combat commander or service higher.

It's hard to prove a slash and burn at that level so why don't you tell me what admirals you saw get schooled and spanked without NJP or that loser Harvey's approach to discipling illegally his subordinate's subordinates? That whole Honor's thing was Second Fleet's to address. It was the CVBG admiral's to address.

It was all pathetic from here in California.

FOGOs are pathetic in their failure to deal honorably with anybody.

Anonymous said...

WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for
personal development
Feel free to surf my weblog ; can itosayyou can't