The Christmas holidays are a special time of the year. For me it is a time to switch off from the daily grind, though I do find myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen while supposedly taking it easy during the days away from the office.

It was over the Christmas holidays I had a totally unexpected and simplistic lesson borne from a single and rather unexpected question. To set the scene, I had just handed Amber (my niece, 15) a box of totally random items. This was the present that she had asked for this Christmas. Within this box was teenage paraphernalia such as costume jewellery, makeup, a few books and some DVD’s etc. One of the DVD’s was the film ‘Pretty in Pink’.

Having looked at the cover Amber asked me “Is that the guy from Two and a Half Men?” to which I quickly replied (and not having looked at all at the cover) “No” as I did not think that he was in that film.

However I was wrong and having stated my position there was no going back. Had I said maybe or I am not sure then I would have had some recourse to save face, but I put paid to that and my niece had a good laugh at my expense.

What if that was a customer asking the question and my response had been so off the cuff? First impressions last and often there is no second chance for recourse. The power of NO can be absolute.

There is a time and a place to be assertive and say No and there are other times when maybe it is just not the right thing to say. Be sure that when used you can back it up with fact.

Really, had I just looked at the cover, there is no denying that is Alan Harper!

Mark O'Loughlin

Mark is a global authority in helping organisations achieve the very best from their investments in people, technology and digital services. He has served on the Board of Directors of itSMF Ireland and Cloud Credential Council. Mark is a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society, awarded for his achievements and contribution to the IT profession and industry. His prolific publishing includes two books published in four languages, 100’s of articles, and whitepapers. He developed the world’s first certification for the business management of cloud services accredited by Cloud Credential Council. As a member of the international standards group ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 38, Mark contributed to the development of global standards for IT, cloud and digital services.