Know When “No” is Necessary

As a business leader – whether you own the company or not - your goal is to create a workplace where your team wants to be and to provide a service/product your clients want to buy. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the list of folks you want to make happy. There are board members, investors, partners, and even your own family. 

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of saying “yes” to a whole lot of things in an effort to appease. “Yes,” however, may not be the right answer. “No” should not be shunned from your vocabulary. In fact, you may want to start saying it more often after reading this article. 

Keep Your Focus

Can you articulate your organization’s mission and vision statement? Do you know who your target market is? Do you have a growth plan with a defined set of goals and milestones that will help you reach that point? (If you can’t answer yes to any of those, that’s step number one.) Some requests we get sound wonderful but they don’t fit our business model, our goals, our skillset, or our target market. 

Saying “yes” to something beyond the bounds of your mission and vision, your target market, and goals can take time and resources away from activities and client service that does check those boxes. It becomes short term gain without long term payoff.  

Consider The Fit

You’ve received an RFP for a project that you know your company could prepare a good response for. In fact, you might even have a good chance at landing the project. The potential account, however, doesn’t necessarily mesh with the rest of your client roster. Your marketing firm has built a business focused on high tech start-ups. This bid would move you into health and beauty. Could you do the work? Sure. You’re good at your job and the projects outlined are in your wheelhouse. However, there are industry nuances and picking up this work would require you to hire a new team member with experience in this area or to ask your team to invest time in learning the market specifics. If you’re being honest, this potential new client simply isn’t a fit for your current business model. If this isn’t an area you were planning on growing, perhaps passing on this one is the best option. 

Consider Your Bandwidth

There will be tasks that are a good fit for your skill set and business model. That doesn’t mean they’re automatically a “yes.” There will be personal requests for opportunities that are right in your wheelhouse. That doesn’t mean the answer is “yes.” If you’re already stretched thin, if the project requires an investment of time or cash that you’re not prepared to spend, or if it’s going to move you off course of your current, desired path, then “no” is the right response. 

This means being honest with yourself first and foremost. Sure, that new role the corporate recruiter called about sounds amazing. It would propel your career forward. It’s certainly work you feel comfortable doing or growing into. It would be a financial boost for your family. It also comes with more hours than you’re currently putting in when you factor in the longer commute and extra responsibilities. Your daughter just made the travel soccer team. Your son is about to start middle school. You’ve started a new certificate program at the local community college that’s going to add demands on your time. You’ve got a full plate and adding these new demands from this potential new opportunity may be more than you’re ready to take on. 

Amazing opportunities aren’t all that amazing if they stretch you too thin. Over committing makes it hard for us to be successful (or happy!) in all the various things that place demands on our time – even the things we love doing. 

“Yes” is Better Elsewhere

As a leader, part of our role is to nurture the growth and development of others. Our job isn’t just to call all the shots or to steer the ship. It’s to mentor others so they too can take their turn at the helm. To do that, sometimes we need to say “no” to a task or project to make space for someone else to say “yes.” If you’re already juggling a full load of work, if the task at hand is well suited to someone else’s skill set (even if it’s a fit for yours!), go ahead and delegate.