By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.” John Maxwell
This is a very busy time of the year and many leaders find themselves very pressured for time. Learning how to manage your limited time and energy is an important skill to learn to be effective leader. To do this well, you have to be willing to say no to requests for your time. This can be challenging as most of us don’t want to disappoint others. The problem is that if you don’t say no then you may not be able to focus on what matters most in your life and work. Learning to say no in a positive way that does not devalue the request but establishes clear boundaries is an important skill.
Evaluating Requests for your Time
Your time is a limited commodity and should be seen this way. This means that every time you make a commitment, it will leave less time for other activities. A reality of leadership is that the more successful we are, the less accessible we become. As things grow and as more people become involved, a leader can’t be equally accessible to all people. So you become faced with the dilemma of who gets your time and who doesn’t, when do they get it, and and how much of it do they get. Requests for your time are in a sense an affirmation that you are successful in your work. While this can be very flattering, you can also easily burn out from becoming over-committed. Learning to say no to more requests can be one of the biggest favors you can do yourself and those you love. It helps reduce stress levels and gives you time for what’s really important.
Saying No in a Positive Way
When you say no to a new commitment, you are in fact honoring your existing obligations. You are also ensuring that you will be able to devote quality time to them. Having said this, it can be difficult to say no and you may worry that you are missing out on a great opportunity. It is important to remember that saying no may give you time for different opportunities that may be more important either personally or professionally. Here are some statements that you can use to say no in positive way.
I would love to be involved but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities.
Now’s is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something else. I may be able to do this at another time.
I’m not the best person to help you with this. Why don’t you try (offer a suggestion)?
This sounds like an interesting opportunity but no, I can’t do it.
Avoiding the Guilt Trap
Saying no can be difficult but most of us have also found ourselves in situations where we said yes reluctantly, and later regretted our decision. Some people will be pushy so you need to learn to be firm but polite in your decisions. If you allow it, the priorities of others could crowd out time you have to spend with your family and close friends. Don’t leave the door open for further negotiation. You may find yourself saying no to good things in order to focus on higher priorities. Saying no may also allow you to try new things. If you have volunteered for 5 years to chair a heart walk, it may be time to give someone else the opportunity.
It is important to recognize that your resources are finite to avoid the guilt trap. Saying no is about respecting and valuing your time and space. If done well, people may not be happy with your refusal but they will understand.
Read to Lead
Ury, W. (2007). The Power of the Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No. Bantam Books.
© emergingrnleader.com 2013