Who Has the Power to Say Yes?

Whether you are an entrepreneur, sales representative or business professional working for someone else, understanding who has the power to say YES is critical.

Yet sadly, that answer isn’t obvious. People will give the impression that they are the ultimate decision maker when in fact, they either don’t have the final say or they share it with another person within the organization.

Not knowing who can actually say “yes” can lead to confusion, frustration and in the case of a small business owner or salesperson – a lot of wasted time.

In the book Working Relationships by Bob Wall, he addresses this in his chapter entitled Participating in Decision Making. He asks the reader to answer these questions:

  • Reflect on the work you do. Identify occasions when the location of the decision maker is uncertain. In what ways does this ambiguity about authority create problems for you or your team?
  • List instances when having the decision would enable you to do your job more efficiently.
  • Identify any decision that are made too slowly. What impact does this have on you, your team and the work you do?
  • Has anyone ever made a decision you thought was yours to make? How did you react?


Having the decision making ability is another word for power. How does the “yes” person use that power? Do they decide to sit on the decision; throwing you or your team into a holding pattern? Are they collaborative, looking to the team for assistance, input and data?

Not clearly understanding who has the power to say yes can make for unnecessary stress in your work day.

  • Ask the question up front. Are you the person who can say yes?


In Mr. Wall’s book he suggests that by asking this simple question, you have the opportunity to open up the discussion which can resolve long standing ambiguity, misunderstanding and inaction.

“That question can be the catalyst for a conversation that may resolve a long standing problem in teamwork. The question focuses the group’s lack of clarity about where decision making authority may reside regarding a specific decision.”

So don’t be afraid to ask.

What if the power to say yes lies with you?

Harvard Business Review wrote a great article about decision making. The author makes keen observations, the first being “don’t make decisions that waste time.” Love that! But the article goes on to caution decision makers:

“Avoid Three Common Decision-Traps

Making decisions is your most critical job as a leader. The more high-stakes a decision is, the more likely you are to get stuck. Here’s how to avoid three of the most common traps:

  • Anchoring. Many people give disproportionate weight to the first information they receive. Be sure to pursue other lines of thinking, even if the first one seems right.

  • Status quo. Change can be unsettling and it’s easy to favor alternatives that keep things the same. Ask yourself if the status quo truly serves your objectives and downplay the urge to stay in your current state.

  • Confirming evidence. If you find that new information continually validates your existing point of view, ask a respected colleague to argue against your perspective. Also try to avoid working with people who always agree with you.” Adapted from Harvard Business Review on Making Smart Decisions

Finally, before you say yes, remember to evaluate your decision based on your goals. Check out my workbook Before You Say Yes.