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“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” – Josh Billings

Leaders are constantly being pulled in multiple directions.  The needs & wants of customers, employees, suppliers, peers, family, etc, always seem to be demanding attention, and don’t always seem to be aligned with each other.  Unfortunately, whether it’s about ego or a sense of responsibility, Leaders have a hard time not trying to fulfill the desires of that diverse group of people.  The result is usually that none of those groups are completely satisfied, and the Leader is miserable.  

One of the hardest things for Leaders to do is to say “no”.  It’s against our DNA.  But whether it’s about time management or core values or simple sanity, it has to be done.  And here are 3 reasons why:

  1. There are only 24 hours in a day.  You don’t have enough time in your day to make everybody happy.  Admit it.  If you try, you’ll only end up doing a mediocre job at everything you do.   Look at all the demands on you and your organization’s resources and ask yourself – what are the biggest impact things we could do?  If you like the 80/20 rule, think of it this way – what 20% of these things we could do would have 80% of the impact we could have on the organization?  There time in your day is limited – fill it with things that matter and so “No” to things that don’t.
  2. Your organization wasn’t designed to do everything.  Too often organizations want to respond to every customer need, and as a result they end up trying to do things that don’t fit their identity.  Example:  I open a restaurant specializing in home cooked, made from scratch meals (meat, potatoes, etc).  One day a customer mentions that they think it would be nice if we had hamburgers, so we start making hamburgers.  The next day a customer mentions that they think it would be nice if we had pizza, so we start making pizza.  The problem is that we can’t do those things as well as the burger joint or Italian place down the street, so now we’re spending valuable resources on things we weren’t intended to do.  There is a big difference between productive change & innovation, and losing focus.  Learn to tell the difference and say “No” to distractions.
  3. You can’t sacrifice everything.  This might sound a little like #1, but I mean this on a more personal level.  If you aren’t mentally & physically & emotionally healthy & balanced, I guarantee you your organization won’t be either.  What personal things in your life are non-negotiable?  If you have time scheduled with your family, will you drop it if a customer calls?  Most Leaders tell themselves they have to, customer needs have to be meet immediately, but do they really?  Quite often the answer is “Not really”.  Everything has things in their life they need in order to stay energized and engaged – make sure you’re saying “No” often enough that those things don’t get pushed aside.

Are you saying “No” often enough?  What needs to go?  What are you doing that you & your organization shouldn’t be?  Learn to say “No”, means giving yourself the opportunity to say “Yes” to what really matters.

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