Why A Yes Person Isn’t Always the Best Person For the Job with Ryan Peña, Ep #16
43 min

Don’t you love those folks in your organization who ask, “How high?” when you say “Jump?” You know the type, we often refer to them as a “Yes Person.” Wouldn’t it be nice if your entire organization was filled with yes people? Not so fast! What if you are missing a key piece of leadership development by turning everyone into a yes person? On this episode, you’ll hear from my guest, Ryan Peña.  Ryan is an Innovation Lab Specialist for Be The Match; a non-profit organization focused on bone marrow registry and research. As a part of the Innovation Lab, Ryan works with a multi-disciplinary team created specifically to solve an existing problem or realize a new opportunity.  In our conversation, Ryan talks about the amazing work they do at Be The Match, what the process is like to become a bone marrow donor, how they develop leaders in the organization, why he volunteered to work with the Innovation Lab, challenges he faces as a leader, and much more. I hope that many of you are moved by life-saving efforts that Ryan and Be The Match work toward.

What is Be The Match?

When most people hear about bone marrow donation they cringe, it sounds so scary and serious! Over the years, TV shows, movies, and other media have focused on the invasive and intimidating aspects of bone marrow donation. Did you know that the process has changed?

These days, to get on the national bone marrow registry, all you have to do is use a kit to swab the inside of your cheek and send it in, it’s that easy!

Be The Match, which is a government funded non-profit will then place your record in their registry until they find someone who matches and needs a bone marrow transplant. Then they’ll contact you, ask for your permission, and then you’ll start the donation process.

Even the donation process has become less scary as technology has advanced. Most donors won’t need to go in for an invasive operation. Eighty percent of the time, donors will simply need to donate through a blood plasma donation type of a process.

To learn more about Be The Match and their life-saving work, make sure to check out the link to their site located in the resources section at the end of this post.

Why experiments like the Innovation Lab are so valuable.

When was the last time you asked your people to think outside of the box? Do you look for ways to inspire and empower people in your organization or do you just want a bunch of yes people?

At Be The Match, Ryan Peña was selected along with five of his peers to participate in an out of the box type of experiment called the Innovation Lab. Sequestered away from the rest of the organization, Ryan and his team were tasked with the objective of researching umbilical cord blood donation and how it can help with their blood marrow registry and research objectives.

This unique experiment took Ryan and his peers away from the hustle and bustle of their day to day responsibilities in the organization with the goal of tackling something they’ve never done before. What lessons can you learn from Be The Match’s experiment with their Innovation Lab?

Does your organization need more Yes People?

Every organization has yes people in their ranks, but are yes people always the best people for the job? What if there was a way to encourage and empower your people to fall in line as yes people when necessary but to speak out and provide constructive feedback when it is appropriate?

Speaking as a former yes man, Ryan Peña encourages leaders to teach their people to speak up and question tasks and assignments in a positive way. He sees this aspect of leadership development as crucial for an organization to remain healthy and innovative.

While it may sound easier to have a room filled with yes people, the truth is, that approach stifles innovation, experimentation, and ultimately growth.

One way to break out of the norm and encourage your people to think critically is to tell them that the next time they are given a task, they have your permission and your endorsement to ask why. It may sound simple, but this small step will show your people that you want to hear from them, you want to get them on board and be part of what your organization is trying to accomplish.

Action steps you can take.

What are you waiting for? Are you going to take action on the information you’ve received or will you just sit on it and let it collect dust on the shelf? Thankfully, Ryan Peña was kind enough to provide three takeaways that leaders like you can use to take action today. 

  1. Challenge yourself to take a step back from your current style of leadership.
  2. Choose your words wisely; you never know how you’ll impact others.
  3. Learn from your surroundings. Cultivate relationships with people in your team. 

I’d love to hear which action step you took with the information that Ryan covered in our conversation. I know that some aspect of what Ryan shared will resonate with leaders who are committed to improve and help their people to do the same.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:15] I introduce my guest, Ryan Peña.
  • [3:00] What is Be The Match?
  • [6:00] When did the technology become available to use swab kits instead of blood tests? What does the donation process look like?
  • [16:30] Ryan talks about developing leaders and helping them connect with the vision of the organization.
  • [20:00] How did Be The Match roll out their “Innovation Lab?”
  • [28:00] What are the two challenges that Ryan faces as a leader?
  • [34:45] Why is someone a “Yes person?”
  • [37:15] Three takeaways from Ryan that you can start acting on.
  • [40:50] Closing thoughts.
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