4 Key Areas In Which Leaders Must Learn To Say No
One of the most valuable lessons you can learn is when to say “yes” or “no” in both your career and in life. For those that are high achievers or people pleasers, this can be a daunting and difficult task, especially when you’re chasing big goals and dreams both personally and professionally.
In this article, I'll outline four key areas in which successful entrepreneurs must learn to say "no"—to either themselves or others—in order to reach new levels of success.
1. Learning How To "Unboss" Yourself: Saying No To Clients
As outlined by Amy Porterfield in her book, Two Weeks Notice: Find the Courage to Quit Your Job, Make More Money, Work Where You Want, and Change the World, many new entrepreneurs struggle to understand the importance of learning to “unboss” themselves, or coming to the understanding—and belief—that they now call the shots. This comes up a lot for women, especially because we’re used to jobs where we’ve always had bosses and been told what to do.
I relate strongly with Porterfield's illustration, having myself once fallen into the trap of conflating clients and bosses. This left me feeling stretched super thin—as if I had to bend over backward whenever and however they requested.
In my first entrepreneurial venture, I did the same, and had a hard time putting the appropriate boundaries in place. I found that the faster I learned to “unboss” myself, the easier it was to build a business and life I am proud of.
2. Leveraging Your Setbacks: Saying No To Roadblocks Getting In Your Way
Another impactful lesson for me is illustrated in Dr. Neeta Bhushan's That Sucked, Now What? How to Embrace the Joy in Chaos & Find the Magic in the Mess. This book helped me embrace that even in times of struggle and setbacks, our own natural gifts can still shine through and show us the way forward.
Bhushan shares countless stories of how she’s leaned in when times were hard, even when she didn’t want to, and how these choices have ultimately opened doors she never thought possible and helped shape who she is today.
This resonates deeply with me as I reflect on some of the harder times in my life and feel grateful for where I chose to pour my energy. My first business was, in fact, born during the 2008 recession, when my husband lost his job.
More recently, in attempt to lean into joy and hope rather than fear and self-doubt during the pandemic, I created the She Believed She Could brand.
Both probably wouldn’t have happened had I been paralyzed by fear or felt like a victim of circumstances. Rather, I leaned into the necessity of pivoting and I am forever grateful for the outcome. There will be challenging and difficult times in all of our lives. Learning how to not let roadblocks stand in our way can help us unlock new levels of potential.
3. Doing The "I" Work: Saying No To A Negative Mindset
Emily Williams, author of I Heart My Life: Discover Your Purpose, Transform Your Mindset, and Create Success Beyond Your Dreams shares openly about the resilience and perseverance it takes to build a business and how your mindset impacts your ability to be successful. Emily recounts how discouraged she once felt after a long series of "nos" from potential clients. She found it was only once she worked on her mindset that success really started to flow, leading her to build a multi-million dollar business.
I totally related to this as I reflect on my own challenges. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but looking back on every business failure I've experienced, I, too, can recognize an underlying theme of misalignment between my mindset and my desired results.
There were many times over the last 15 years of my entrepreneurial and startup journey when I've felt on a “desperation rollercoaster” of negativity and self-sabotage. It’s a powerful reminder of the influence our thoughts, feelings and emotions have over our success and that it’s just as important to do the inner work as it is the outer work if you want to truly optimize your potential.
Leaders must remember that self-doubt will kill more dreams than failure ever will. It's through the practice of leaning in and doing the work that we find ourselves able to maximize our results and fulfillment.
4. Knowing Your Value: Saying No To Those That Don't Pay You What You're Worth
This is a key lesson at play within Becca Powers' Harness Your Inner CEO: Rise Into Passion, Prosperity, and Empowerment.
Becca openly shares how compromising her own value as she navigated her career ultimately led to disappointment. It served as a poignant reminder of how critically important it is to check in with ourselves as we negotiate the value we bring to the table.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur selling goods or services, or an ambitious employee striving for success, you need to decide where the line in the sand is when it comes to the value you provide. When you say “yes” to an opportunity, customer or client who is paying you less than what you’re worth, you put yourself in a position to be disappointed and resentful. Make sure you’ve done the work to best ensure you don't fall into the trap of compromising or deprioritizing yourself, your goals or your needs.
Savvy Leaders Know When To Say “No”—To Themselves And Others.
As you continue to navigate the stages and phases of your professional journey, make sure that you understand that the “nos" are just as important as the “yeses.” Knowing what boundaries you need to create, what your bounce-back strategy will be, how you will navigate your limiting beliefs and ultimately, the value you will require in exchange for your time and energy will serve you well.
Remember, your potential is limitless if you allow it to be.