When someone asks you for something, I don\u2019t care if you\u2019re dealing with a child or a CEO, you can\u2019t just say "No," or "What are you, nuts?" That is not a real response to a query made in earnest. To avoid that, I approach every conversation?whether it is with my direct report or the chairman of the board?as a conversation between peers. Even if I\u2019m not sure we ought to do what someone is asking us to do or I\u2019m vehemently opposed to doing it, it is still someone asking me an earnest question. And chances are he\u2019s trying to fix a real problem. He may have come up with a less than optimal solution, but you\u2019ve still got to start a dialogue and address the underlying problem.More often than not, that conversation can be as simple as suggesting further analysis of the situation: "Let\u2019s bring a consultant in," or "Let\u2019s ask Sally and Herb to take a look at this." No matter what the words are, what you\u2019re saying is, "Let\u2019s explore this a little further before we make a decision." Chances are the people you\u2019re dealing with will be responsive to this approach. In one case, one of the senior members of our medical staff thought the IS department should lead the charge in reducing medical errors. I knew this was something that the medical leaders needed to address. It wasn\u2019t appropriate for the IS guy to go in there and say, "Hey you guys are making too many mistakes, and we\u2019re going to fix that." This was a very senior member of the executive team with enormous influence and power, but I knew he was just frustrated. The organization wasn\u2019t moving fast enough, and he thought IS could speed things up. While there are some cases where IT should be the mover, I knew that given the issue and the way our business community works, our medical department should lead this effort, and I told him that by saying, "Now will I help you with this? Damn straight. But let\u2019s talk about how we move this along together."I don\u2019t want to be Pollyannaish. There are situations in which a person holds to her beliefs and the collegial approach won\u2019t work. At the very least you should invoke what I call the "arbitration rule" and get the opinion of two other folks on the situation. Every now and then, you will get stuck with a person who is going to say, "We\u2019re going to do this no matter what." But that ought to occur in the low single-digit percentages. I remember more than a decade ago, when we were trying to get out of an outsourcing agreement, my boss wanted to bring in attorneys, play hardball, and yell and scream about it. I wanted to take more of a high road. I went over his head to explain why [to his superior as well as to him] and told him that if I was wrong we\u2019d go back to his plan, which we eventually did. And I think that the months of keeping to the high road made it easier to play hardball when the time came to do so.If all else fails, ignore the request. Really. Wait and see if the issue comes up again. If it doesn\u2019t, it was just a flash in the pan. But if it comes back, it\u2019s real. A couple of years ago, we were going to buy some new financial systems and someone suggested, "Hey, why don\u2019t we write them instead." Now I certainly did not want to have to write them, but I listened dutifully. Then I just let it slide. It never came back.