“No” Is Not Enough

An excellent blog at the Harvard Business Review asks: Are You a Rebel or a Leader? Time was that all revenue assurance people were rebels. They had to rebel against the constricting and false assumptions about how telcos worked. Without rebellion, they would have just nodded their heads and agreed with the faulty logic that said if there is no evidence of leakage, then there is no leakage. The rebels have done well in winning that battle. Now the emphasis is on finding out the truth before you jump to the conclusion. But have revenue assurance people made the transition to being leaders?

Years ago, I thought that talented people would experience an inevitable transition from revenue assurance to business leadership. Back then, I thought of RA as an ideal training ground – giving a broad insight into how the business worked, giving access to real data, and teaching the skills needed to distinguish solid business fact from wishful business fiction. However, not every upward route leads to the top. RA people can be empowered by gaining ever more right to say “no”. “No, you cannot launch that product”. “No, you need more controls in place than that.” “No, there is too much risk in this proposal.” The problem with being the person empowered to say “no” is that you get stuck playing the part of the rebel, pulling the opposite way to other people in the business. Sometimes the business needs someone pulling the opposite way, to prevent everyone going over a cliff. But if you only ever pull against the rest of the business, you will never be in a position to lead it. To become a leader, you need to learn when it is right to say “yes”. “Yes, this product launch is too important to delay and we can live with this weakness on the launch date.” “Yes, the investment in controls is adequate because our work already shows that the exposure is negligible.” “Yes, there is a risk, but the risk doesn’t justify blocking this proposal as it stands or spending more on mitigation.” RA people will be leaders when they can tell when they should say “yes” as well as when they should say “no”. There will be times when they still have to play the part of neigh-sayers, forcing the business to reset its expectations. But the proof of their success comes with permanently resetting the expectations, permanently realigning the culture, and then changing themselves from rebels who pull against opposing forces, to team-players with a strong focus on the best interests of the whole team. The ability to say “no” is not enough in a leader; leaders create change, and make change positive.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.