Executive Rewind: How to Answer “No”!

Socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders attends Walmart’s annual investor meeting and tells management their board should have an employee on it.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is confronted with a question about that demand on the Fox Business Network. His response: “no” without ever saying “no”:

“Our associates definitely have voices!” That immediate response, his very first words, is perfect. It summarizes exactly what he says following that, and creates a strong impression for his target audiences.

Pressed for more, McMillon expands on how involved employees already are in many facets of Walmart’s business as well as their benefits:

Avoid answering yes or no questions with a yes or no answer. Instead, take the opportunity to pick up on the context of the entire question and use it to your advantage.

McMillon’s answers are responsive to the context to what’s being asked, while avoiding being cornered on the issue of putting a Walmart employee on the board. Whether you agree with his position, his answer is perfectly acceptable and maintains consistency with his messages to investors, employees and fellow managers, as well.

And each of them is a crucial audience for this CEO.