Pip Marlow: The Art of Saying No When You’re a Yes Person

Pip Marlow and Kirsten Galliott

Modern leadership has seen the command-and-control style of management disappear. But decisions still need to be made – and they can be hard ones. “I love to work collaboratively to get to the best possible outcome but sometimes I have to make uncomfortable calls,” says Pip Marlow, who’s just finished up as CEO and EVP of Salesforce in the APAC region. 

Marlow, who previously led Microsoft in Australia for six years, spoke at Qantas magazine’s Think. event about her natural tendency to agree to things. “I love trying to help people and I love saying ‘yes’. But sometimes I have to get uncomfortable and do things that push me out of where my natural preferences lie in order to do what’s required.”

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Keeping the greater good in mind helps Marlow hold her nerve, particularly when it comes to her passion for building high-performing teams, which calls for clear-eyed judgment. 

“The toughest decisions for me are around people. I care about the people on the team but sometimes they’re no longer right for the team and you have to make that decision. Whilst you feel that discomfort, that’s a good thing. It’s telling you that you care – but it doesn’t mean you don’t go and do it.

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“It’s okay to acknowledge how you feel and what you might have to conquer to go ahead and make those decisions. Those challenging moments can trigger your value set, so the more I’m aware of that, the easier it is for me to address that and do it in a way that’s aligned to my values.”

pip marlow portrait

Marlow says teams need their leaders to be decisive and she recalls a moment with a career coach years ago. “The coach said to me, ‘Pip, you need to make it clear to your team whether you are the chef or the ingredient today. Some days you can be the ingredient and others you need to be the chef, but if you’re just waffling in between, they’re not going to know what to expect from you’.” 

Marlow reminds leaders that deciding against one thing can open up the possibility of pursuing a brighter path. “When you’re aiming high, you realise that if you are going to take a big bet, you’re going to have to say ‘no’ to a lot of other things.”

Think. is a thought-leadership event and content series, presented by Qantas magazine and in association with LSH Auto Australia – the country’s leading Mercedes-Benz dealer group. Find out more about LSH Auto Australia.

SEE ALSO: Margie Hartley: Leadership is a Relationship Business

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