Episode 40

Published on:

17th Feb 2021

The Art of Saying No

The Art of Saying No

Saying Yes is Always Easy But Not Always Wise

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” Tony Blair

Consider What happens when you always say yes.

1.      It’s impossible to do everything well and saying yes to everything puts a leader at high risk for losing the focus and the stamina to accomplish their highest priorities.

2.      When a leader always says yes, they move into the tyranny of the urgent, putting out fires and tackling the day-to-day demands. All good and important things but not where their highest impact and value will be felt – good, but not great things.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” Jim Collins

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” Jim Collins

3.      When a leader always says yes, is that it may skew a leader’s motives for why they are willing to do the work. Are they are saying yes because they like to feel good? Feel that they are a supportive team player? Have a strong desire to be liked? Or are they saying yes in the hopes it will set them up for a promotion? Are they saying yes so that the conversation will take less of their time as they respond with a quick yes? 

Being bold enough to say no is not always easy. You still want to be perceived as a team player, as someone who wants to work hard, as one who understands the needs of the business; as a leader who can flex when needed…. And I could go on…

When someone comes to you with a request, if at all possible, rather than jumping in with a response, look to share in an open and responsive way with comments such as:

Can we set up some time to talk about this? Can I have a little time to learn more about this?

From my own experience I have found that before I quickly say yes to a request the results are usually better if I have time to ask myself a few questions:

Can I seek to understand why this request is being made?

Step One: Clarify

Step Two: Reflect

Step Three: Confirm

 Is this request the wise thing to do?

Exploration of wisdom is an essential component in every leader’s journey and, particularly as you consider the idea that there are times to say “No” then it’s great to have wisdom at your side.

To me, this moves the question from whether doing the task is right or wrong, but is it the best choice.

Jim Temme’s method in his book called Productivity Power uses the acronym USA to help a leader develop an approach to saying no.

U: Begin with an understanding statement. Really this is about acknowledging the value of the person who is coming to ask you to support some work. Secondly it is an opportunity to show that you understand the work is important.

S: Situation Statement. This takes into account what your situation is right now. Being organized in a way that demonstrates your work load really helps communicate clearly what your current situation is.

A: Action Statement: You have the chance to move this request into action. Instead of starting with no or other words of frustration, engage in a conversation of options for action. Moving other priorities, including someone else in the request and so on….

Notice that the action statement is asking your boss to help with the solution. This is so different than the only option being that you respond with a yes. This is also a good reminder that in saying no to this request you are still saying yes to the highest priorities.

Gain a clear picture of your situation and your days. Determine what you value the most, what your top priorities are. And then enter into the art of learning to say no. (oh, by the way, this is not just for managing work in your business world; the same is true for your personal life. Packing your off-work hours with a never ending myriad of tasks and events results in the same need to learn the art of when to say no. 

This is the voice of Niña Ellison. You can reach me at www.healthyleadership.online


Quotes from Jim Collins

Stanley, A. (2004). The Best Question Ever. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.

Temme, J. (1993) Productivity Power: 250 great ideas for being more productive. Mission, KS: SkillPath Publications. P.7480

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About the Podcast

The Art of Leadership
The Art of Leadership focuses on soft skills... some of the hardest skills a leader will ever learn.
The Art of Leadership with Dr. Niña Ellison focuses on the soft skills of leadership, their value and the power of their influence. As a leader, if you are interested in moving from success to significance then balancing both hard and soft skills is essential!

Hard skills are demonstrated through technical expertise that results in clearly measured goals being reached. They are vital to the success of any initiative or program. On the other hand, soft skills emphasize the transformation of people. They highlight behavioral changes and making a difference in people’s lives.

This podcast is for leaders who are seeking a fresh perspective into some of the hardest soft skills a leader will ever learn. You can connect with Niña at https://www.ninaellison.com

About your host

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Niña Ellison

In 2019, after years of leading teams varying from international disaster relief and healthcare to the US Corporate world, Niña founded Healthy Leadership to focus on her passion for partnering with leaders in their growth and sustainability. Her own journey into soft skill development has convinced her that while her technical skills helped her get her foot in the door, her soft skills moved the influence of her leadership from success to significance.

As a soft skill specialist Niña takes monthly deep dives in her podcast series, The Art of Leadership, to explore the underlying dimensions of soft skills. She knows that soft skill development is not so much about WHAT but HOW a leader leads.
• From a 10,000 foot view a leader pursuing soft skills asks, “How do I problem solve; How do I manage time and energy?”
• From a 1,000-foot view that same leader, as they dig deeper into soft skills, begins asking questions like, “How do I listen; or How do gain self-control?”
• From Ground Zero the leader recognizes that there are underlying dimensions of soft skills as they ask, “How do I model respect for all; How do I sustain hope; How do I demonstrate appropriate love in the workplace; How do I maintain the right attitude?” How do I lead by serving?

Nina believes that behind every wildly effective and sustainable system and process are leaders and teams who have interwoven soft skills into every phase of their work.