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Topic for November:
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Topic: "Saying No: How to Say No to Power"
Speaker: Rick Brenner


Do you have difficulty saying "no" to people in power?

Modern organizations are often organized around projects. People who are involved in project work, work together toward a shared objective-- as team members, as project managers, as task managers, as sponsors, and as functional managers. Sometimes, even though they have a common goal, their agendas and tactics conflict.

When these conflicts appear, one person or group might have to deny the request of another, who might have considerable organizational clout. This can lead to escalating pressure. Often, pressured parties tire of the tension, or fear sets in, and they "cave"-- yielding to the pressure. At times, yielding leads to an agreement that simply cannot be fulfilled, which then threatens the project's success.

When this happens, saying "no"-- finding a way not to yield-- would have been better for the health of the project, the health of the team, and the health of the person who said no.

This presentation explores:

  • The structure of these pressure situations
  • Why it is so hard to say no
  • Typical tactics used by both sides
  • The dynamics of saying yes or no
  • Perils of saying yes when you should have said no
  • Traps and pitfalls when you say no
  • Honest, direct ways to say no

This program will give you the tools you need to assess pressure situations, and, when appropriate, to help convert pressure and opposition to joint problem-solving. Far from the dry, laptop-driven format of most corporate presentations these days, the program is interactive and experiential. Not only is this approach effective as a presentation tool, it's lively and fun.

Attendees will be better able to contribute to project success by helping the organization find new choices.

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About the Speaker

Rick Brenner is founder and principal of Chaco Canyon Consulting. He works with people in dynamic problem-solving organizations who make complex products that need state-of-the-art teamwork.

In his 20 years as a software developer, software development manager, entrepreneur, consultant, and coach, he has developed valuable insights into the interactions between people in a problem-solving environment, and between people and the media in which they work.

Mr. Brenner has held positions at Symbolics, Inc., and Draper Laboratory. Since 1993, he has taught a course in business modeling at the Harvard University Extension School. He is Vice Chair of the Boston SPIN.

Mr. Brenner holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT. He trained in Satir methods under Gerald M. Weinberg and Jean McLendon, attending and staffing many of their workshops over a period of seven years. His interests focus on improving personal and organizational effectiveness, especially in abnormal situations, as in the case of continuous change, in organizational emergencies, and high-pressure project situations. He writes and edits a free email newsletter, Point Lookout, and has written a number of essays on these subjects, available at his Web site,

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