How to Find the Power to Say No

Anyone who can’t say, “No,” is living someone else’s life.

“No” is necessary for fulfillment and success, as long as leaders are driven by a compelling, “YES.”

Who can’t say, “No?”

  1. Dis-empowered people. Fear says, “Yes,” when it should say, “No.” This may be one reason leaders hoard power, rather than giving it.
  2. People-pleasers. Our need for approval drives us into self-defeating activities and commitments.
  3. Dreamers. Do you love new ideas? Dreamers believe they can make nearly any idea work. Lack of focus drives dreamers to distraction.
  4. Ambitious people. Saying, “Yes,” earns opportunities – as long as you deliver on your yeses.

4 “NO” enablers:

#1. Self-awareness:

Know who you are so you can say, “No.”

Know your strengths, weaknesses, values, mission, and aspirations in order to set yourself up for success.

Note: Don’t use self-awareness as an excuse to play it safe. Expressions like, “That’s just not me,” may be a smokescreen for fear, love of ease, or self-indulgence.

#2. Mission:

Letting go of one project or responsibility has meaning when it’s an expression of saying, “Yes,” to compelling mission. 

Commit yourself to a noble path so you can turn from all others.

#3. Trustworthy team members:

Unreliable team members are like chewing gravel.

Slacker-teammates double stress and strangle progress. First, you have to do your own work. Second, you live with the constant dripping of potential disappointment.

One slacker stalls the entire team. Everyone waits when one person doesn’t follow through.

#4. Priorities:

Choose activities that best take you where you want to go with the middle-term in view.

Short-term is short-sighted. Long-term has little urgency.

Reject activities that seem like distractions.

Bonus: 3 questions to ask before saying, “Yes”:

  1. Does saying, “Yes,” deliver value to others and yourself?
  2. How does saying, “Yes,” express mission and aspiration?
  3. What strengths do you possess that provide confidence you will succeed?

How might leaders say, “No,” with wisdom and grace?