Recently, my young son came to me with a question. He started his query, "Dad, I know you are going to say 'no', but hear me out."

Clearly, my kids know me and have learned the art of negotiation well.

In truth, my first reaction to most things my children ask is indeed "no," and for good reason -- questions often involve power tools and sugar or some dangerous combination thereof.

The exchange reminded me of a time when a former employee approached me with an idea. Entering my office, he also started out his conversation with, "Now, hear me out."

As the CEO of the company and generally a conservative entrepreneur, I was accustomed to quickly nipping most ideas at their root. A leader's responsibility, after all, is setting the company mission and doing his or her best to steer the organization in the right direction.

Deviations from the course are distractions.

With my interest peaked (and pride slightly bruised), I sat quietly and heard him out. What happened next was crazy.

I did not like (putting it mildly) the idea when it started, and ordinarily I would have stopped him almost immediately and sent him along.

As the details of his idea and pitch emerged, however, the idea started to evolve. Before he was even finished pitching, he had even transitioned from his original idea into an iteration thereof.

In the end, I did say, "no" -- but, we left the meeting with action items on how to improve on it. Eventually, we integrated parts of the idea into other aspects of the business, and it turned out great.

Apple's founder, Steve Jobs, was famous for opining that focus comes from saying "no" to more things than you say "yes" to, which allows companies to hone resources and capabilities on their few strengths.

Jobs was not wrong, but the lesson here is that while good leaders know how to say "no," great leaders know when to say "no."

Are you a "yes" person or a "no" person? How do you find balance? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.