Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus

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9780133095111: Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus

Make better decisions! Michael A. Roberto will help you achieve deeper consensus, get past groupthink and "yes men," and achieve superior results in every decision you make -- especially your most complex and highest-stakes decisions! Roberto's Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer, Second Edition gives you a powerful framework for promoting honest, constructive dissent and skepticism; test your assumptions; more thoroughly and fairly considering "best alternatives"; crisply coming to closure; and aligning your entire organization behind the decision you make.


In this new edition, Roberto presents new cases from Google, Ford, and Intuit, and expands coverage to more deeply illuminate his decision-making approach. Offering both positive and negative examples, he presents a well rounded view of how to determine when 'yes' means 'yes', when it doesn't, and what to do when it doesn't. Throughout, Roberto demonstrates why "good process entails the astute management of the social, political and emotional aspects of decision making" -- in other words, why effective leaders are well served by carefully "deciding how to decide." You'll learn how to: 

  • Test and probe what your team really believes, and get the truth and candor you really need
  • Encourage constructive objections -- and keep them constructive
  • Improve team management, mitigate risk, identify opportunities, and promote integrity
  • Build stronger commitment amongst the people who'll implement your decisions

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From the Back Cover:

Praise for the First Edition

Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer addresses a perennial and pernicious thorn in the leader’s side—the yes-men in every organization. (And if you think your company is without them, you really need this book!) Leaders at all levels can use Roberto’s advice to make better decisions and align their teams for results.”

KEN BLANCHARD, Coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Customer Mania


“Deciding how to decide is a powerful idea that all leaders should understand and put into practice. In doing so, they can become adept at stimulating candid dialogues, testing their company’s core assumptions, and achieving alignment. Roberto’s ideas have already begun to make a profound difference in the effectiveness of our management meetings. Our clients around the world would do well to adopt Roberto’s straightforward recommendations.”

ED BOSWELL, President and CEO, The Forum Corporation


“Too often leaders mistake silence for agreement. Roberto offers concrete advice on how to beat this trap. A must-read for leaders at all levels.”

KATHLEEN M. EISENHARDT, Stanford W. Ascherman M. D. Professor, Stanford University and Codirector, Stanford Technology Ventures Program


“In his book Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Roberto provides a unique and very enlightening look into the process of decision making. His thesis around ‘critical consensus building’ is worthwhile reading for any manager or entrepreneur that strives to be the most effective leader they can be.”

JONATHAN KRAFT, Vice Chairman, New England Patriots


“Unasked questions and undermined decisions are the two main reasons for corporate failure. To avoid these dangerous wrong turns, every executive should study Roberto’s clear road maps for making and implementing decisions.”

WILBUR L. ROSS, JR., Chairman of the Board, International Steel Group


Leaders still hear “yes” far too often—and they don’t hear bad news until it’s too late. They imagine they’ve achieved consensus, and then they find their decisions undermined by colleagues who never bought in. They become isolated, and even the most dangerous actions can go unquestioned. This remains an enormous problem for leaders and for the entire organization. But is it inevitable? Absolutely not.


In a new edition of his widely praised bestseller, Michael A. Roberto shows how to stimulate constructive debate that leads to better decisions, deeper consensus, and better results. Now reflecting new research and updated case studies, this edition also integrates more valuable guidance on benefiting from “devil’s advocacy” without introducing negativity or costly delay.


Throughout, Roberto offers powerful new insights into managing teams, mitigating risk, and even promoting ethics through effective governance. Whether you’re a senior executive or a project team member, this book will help you leverage your organization’s immense untapped wisdom to optimize both decisions and performance.



Systematically diagnosing, evaluating, and improving your decision-making processes



Reaching the right decision without micromanaging its content



Promoting the right conflicts—the ones that lead to clarity and progress



Using fair and legitimate processes to achieve closure that’s real, not fake

About the Author:

Michael Roberto is the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He has served on the faculty at Harvard Business School and as a visiting professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Over the past decade, Professor Roberto has held a position on the faculty of the Nomura School of Advanced Management in Tokyo, where he teaches an executive program each summer.


Professor Roberto’s previous book, Know What You Don’t Know (Pearson/Financial Times, 2009) addresses how leaders can become more effective problem finders. He has created two best-selling audio and video lecture series for The Great Courses ( The Art of Critical Decision Making , 2009, and Transformational Leadership , 2011). His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review , MIT Sloan Management Review , and California Management Review.


Professor Roberto’s research and teaching have earned several major awards. The Everest Leadership and Team Simulation earned an MITX Interactive Award for Best E-Learning Solution in 2011. Columbia’s Final Mission , a multimedia case study about the 2003 space shuttle accident, garnered the software industry’s prestigious Codie Award in 2006. On the teaching front, Professor Roberto is a seven-time winner of the Outstanding MBA Teaching Award at Bryant University. He has been awarded Harvard’s Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics on two occasions. Professor Roberto received an AB with honors from Harvard College, an MBA with High Distinction from Harvard Business School, and a doctorate from the Harvard Business School.


Professor Roberto lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Kristin, and his three children, Luke, Celia, and Grace.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Roberto, Michael A.
Published by FT Press (2013)
ISBN 10: 0133095118 ISBN 13: 9780133095111
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Roberto, Michael A.
Published by FT Press
ISBN 10: 0133095118 ISBN 13: 9780133095111
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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