100% Jodi: Your “No” Screams Senior Leadership

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Saying No…is this easy for you? Or does even hearing the word “no” feel like a gut-punch? Do you cringe when you have to say no to someone?

We’ve all heard about leveraging the power of “Yes” – but what about saying “No”?  

In this episode, let’s explore when to say “no” – and how to do it effectively.

Excuse me, did you just say no?

Let’s face it, as women, we get more positive feedback and assurances that we are doing the right thing when we are accommodating. Saying “yes” brings smiles and nods of approval.

According to Mary McKinney, a clinical psychologist and academic coach at Chapel Hill, N.C., “saying no is more challenging for women because of societal pressures to be likeable. Men are still seen as likeable if they’re assertive, while women are more likely to be seen as likeable if they’re compliant.”

Early in our careers as individual contributors, saying “yes” and volunteering for the extra work is a strategy to get noticed and send signals that we are capable of being given more, and we are a team player. Sometimes that means saying “yes” before you’ve had time to think it through.

For this strategy to work we needed to exude that everything was under control as we diligently work through all the extra responsibility on our own. If this is still your pattern even though you have a team of people reporting up to you, I’m going to encourage you, if you haven’t already, to listen to the last episode, “What Does “Asking for Help” Mean to You?”.

Have you ever reported into a manager who said “yes” too often and wasn’t asking for help?

Let me create a picture for you.

You need to get some guidance from your manager on a project you’ve been assigned to but you hesitate. Your manager has been a little frazzled lately. They are not complaining per se, but the signs are there.

You go to them to ask your questions and they appear to regretfully pull themselves away from what they were working on. There’s something in their facial expression and body language that signals impatience. Their answers may be a little short and they are not asking follow-up questions.

You’re planning a vacation with some family or friends and you ask your manager for the time off. If you are asking in-person you may get a flat stare or a look of alarm. If you are requesting the time off electronically you get radio silence and have to follow up to get your answer or your manager responds, asking if you really need to take the time off right now.

While all of this is subtle it leaves you feeling unsupported, perhaps a little unappreciated.

Is this manager the leader you want to be? Is this how you want your team to feel?

Know when and how to say no

Knowing when and how to say “no” is a big part of your success – as an individual, as a member of a team, and especially as a leader.

Research is showing that saying “yes” too often will put you physically and psychologically at risk.

“A recent Stanford University study found that productivity per hour declined sharply when a person worked more than 50 hours a week. Furthermore, researchers found that those who worked up to 70 hours a week were only getting the same amount of work done as those who put in 55 hours.’

According to this study, Failing to say ‘no’ to additional tasks – wastes time, energy and resources.”

Are there times when saying “yes” can work for you. Absolutely!

You want to say “yes” to good opportunities to advance your career. But if you are saying “yes” to too many things, things that are not as important or vital to you, you won’t have the bandwidth to say “yes” to good opportunities when they come along.

Or, you won’t have the bandwidth to do everything well when you say yes to those good opportunities.

Can you relate to that? How many times have you had to skip a workout or cancel plans with family and friends to stay on top of everything you’ve said yes to at work? Or, you painfully submitted something that was not your best work but it was going to have to do.

How to determine if it’s a “yes” or a “no”?

1. Unless it’s a full-body, “I’ve been waiting for this moment” kind of request, refrain from saying “yes” on the spot.

Instead say, “let me check my [work load/schedule/upcoming projects] and I’ll get back to you.”  This gives you time to consider your options and prevents the knee-jerk response that is usually driven by a need to please others, be liked, or not look bad.

2. Assess the ask.

Is this a good opportunity for you? Is there plenty of room in your schedule? If not, what would you have to give up in order to make this commitment work? Is it worth it? Your time is a precious resource and you want to make sure you are spending it wisely.

3. If it’s a “no”, use a soft “no”. 

“Thank you for thinking of me. I checked my [work load/schedule/upcoming projects] and won’t be able to commit to this.” A soft “no” makes it easier for you if you are a people-pleaser (and I’m one of them) to honor the relationship while maintaining boundaries around your time.

If you are saying “no” and the person is your boss or a person who impacts your performance review, convey the careful consideration you gave your decision and how you are protecting your ability to do your best work and provide value to the company.

4. If you can offer an alternative, offer it.

Do you know someone or have a resource that can help them instead? Offer it up. Again, this helps to soften the “no” and let’s the other person know you want them to be successful in their endeavor.
Especially if you are saying “no” to a leader above you, help them to find some alternatives.

Saying “no” to someone who can impact your career can be a scary scenario. But I’ll say this, you will not impress anyone if you are overworked and cannot do your best work because you’re getting pulled in too many directions.

Saying “no” screams Senior Leadership

What’s in the way of saying “no” is mostly the worry that it will disappoint others or it will reflect badly on you. Yet without no in your vocabulary, you’ll be seen as someone who isn’t ready to be promoted to the next level.

The ability to say “no” with the good of the company in mind screams senior leadership. And senior leaders say “no” all the time.

I’ll wrap this up with a quote from author Anna Taylor. “Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about my process, the cost of coaching, or how to ask your employer to pay for you to work with a coach, schedule a time to chat with me

As always, I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!


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