First of all, I want to say, “thanks to all the people who were kind enough to write and tell me how much you appreciated last month’s column. Your taking the time to write to let me  know  you  found  the column helpful  is deeply appreciated.  As my grandfather used to say, “Your kindness warmed the cockles of my heart.”

Some of those who wrote asked if I would expound on some of the concepts I presented.  I appreciate the request.  That makes it much easier for me to come up with ideas for this column.

Never Ask a Question to Which You Don’t Know the Answer!

In last month’s column, I illustrated this principle by saying that when I had an item that needed to go on  the agenda  for the meeting of the  Juvenile Board or Commissioners Court, I visited with each member to learn if they were supportive of what I was proposing.  If I discovered a majority of them were opposed to what I was proposing, I pulled the item from the agenda, visited with those who were opposed, found out what their objections were and spent time overcoming them.  I only put it back on the agenda when I had enough votes for the item to be approved.

As one reader pointed out, frequently matters come up that require the item be placed on the agenda of the next meeting and there is not enough time to do the things I suggested.  That reader is absolutely correct.  In that case, this principle would not be applicable. However, most items are not emergency items.

Another reader suggested I provide examples of how this principle works.  Suppose I had an idea for a new program or wanted to suggest a new way of doing something that would require approval from the board.  In a casual conversation with each member of the board, I would bring up the idea.  If I got a negative response from some of the members, I would ask them to explain why they felt the way they did.  Once I knew what their objections were, I could then work on how to overcome their objections or amend the idea to make it more acceptable to them.  I did not put the idea on the agenda until I knew I had the votes for it to be approved.

One reason this approach increases the likelihood of getting your requests approved is that once a person has publicly said, “no” to an idea, it is difficult to get that person to change his/her vote if it is brought up at a subsequent meeting.  Using the approach I am describing you are working to get the person to change his/her vote before he/she takes a public stand on the issue. 

The second reason that this approach increases the likelihood of getting your requests approved is that by not placing it on the agenda until you know you have enough votes to get it approved, you get the reputation of  never presenting them with a bad idea. They fail to realize that your bad ideas are weeded out before the agenda is finalized.

Having a reputation of only bringing to the board sound, well thought out ideas leads them to give you the benefit of the doubt on those rare occasions when you have to put a controversial item on the agenda and you do not have the opportunity to visit with them individually.

Again, this tip does not ensure that you get everything you want, but you will get a higher percentage of the things you actually request and you actually have less items disapproved.

Next month’s column will contain two additional hints for executives.  Those are: “People do things for their reasons, not yours” and “the time to start planning your budget is immediately after you get approval on the previous one.”


If you have other topics you would like to see in this column, please send them to

Never Ask a Question to Which You Don’t Know the Answer
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