The Art of Strategic No's

In life and leadership it’s essential to be clear on your values and beliefs as well as your own life vision and goals. Without that clarity, your life will be a series of reactions to the needs, wants, ideas and goals of others. “If you do not know what your values and priorities are, someone else will determine them for you.” Judy Suiter, CEO of Competitive Edge Inc.

Clarity of vision and values provide a powerful force to living a life of intention and fulfillment. Success is easier to achieve when you can move towards your preferred life and future with focus. It’s easier to know what to say YES to.

However, another important advantage of clarity and yet rarely talked about is the ability to get really strategic about when to say NO. I’ve witnessed so many people committed to being successful and growing their careers. Same with teams and organizations, they want to provide the best service to their customers and clientele. Yet their desire to please others can cause them to lose focus and not stay in alignment with what is important to them personally or as an organization.

The art of Strategic No’s involves the following:

  1. Have a clear mission, purpose and plan. Know what you are moving towards.
  2. When new opportunities are presented, take a pause and reflect. What is the impact of saying YES or NO? Consider everything within the context of your vision, goals, values and beliefs. You have the right and responsibility to consider your own needs.
  3. Consider your options so there are no regrets 10 months or 10 years from now.
  4. Do a gut check – listen to your intuition.
  5. When saying NO, be confident and clear so there are no assumptions. You are the manager of your own message and brand so clarity is key.
  6. Appreciate the offer and opportunity and indicate that you are still open to the relationship and other opportunities.

Sometimes saying NO is essential so you are not distracted by your true calling. Sometimes NO is the courageous thing to do to make sure that you live your life by design versus trying to please others. Sometimes saying NO helps others understand where you stand and even better opportunities, collaborations or ideas emerge.

Just yesterday I was working with a client. He was reflecting on the fact that he had just said no to an international posting because it wasn’t in alignment with his family’s desire to stay close to family. When saying NO he stated why with confidence and clarity. Guess what? His employer came back with a different offer. They are crafting the role a different way so he can be part of that team. The NO that he thought might have been a career limiting move has become the exact next stage role he’d been hoping for.

Strategic No’s require courage and practice. If this is a skill and discipline you’d like to develop, let me know.