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Saying ‘No’ Requires a Strong ‘Yes’
Of the many abilities required to excel at leadership, perhaps none is more important than the ability to say, “No.” Our human desire to be liked and accepted often stunts our learning about this essential skill.
Saying “no" requires us to become focused on what really matters. We should refuse to accept tasks from others that dilute our effectiveness. Leaders waste weeks and months by saying “yes" to requests that are important to others, yet distract from the leader’s own priorities — ones that the leader knows will create real impact and have a lasting influence.
Here’s a simple rule to follow: If you wouldn’t say “yes" to a request in the next seven hours, don’t say “yes" to a request to do something a week from today. Similarly, if you wouldn’t say “yes" to a request in the next week, don’t say “yes" to a request seven months from now.
The truth is, we say “yes" to future requests largely because they are in the distant future. We don’t have to do them right now. Plus, we want to be positive and likable in the moment. In those moments, we forget that when the burden of the agreement comes due, we are usually focused upon something important which we will have to abandon.
Remember this: Knowing your priorities and values is an essential step in mustering the courage to say “no." Focus on living your values and achieving great outcomes. It’s always easier to say “no" when you have a strong “yes" somewhere else.