How to Say “No”

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

~ Tony Blair

How to Say “No”

By Angie Morgan

You have achieved a certain level of success by your ability to say “yes.”

  • Yes, I will work on Saturday.
  • Yes, I will take on more than my share of work.
  • Yes, I will serve on an additional committee.

This strategy has worked really well for you. After all, look at the result? While saying “yes” has put you in a position of influence, too many “yes’s” could also lead to your demise.

When we obligate ourselves to too many projects or aggressive deadlines, we can quickly find ourselves over-committing and under-delivering. Suddenly the quality of our work suffers because we do not have an unlimited amount of time and energy to dedicate to our obligations. When our quality suffers, our credibility is impacted.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of ways that you can begin to say “no?” No doesn’t mean never. Often it means “not now.” Here are a few ideas on how you can begin to start saying no:

  • When your manager comes to you and you are already overwhelmed, ask for a priorities-based conversation. Perhaps they do not have a clear view of what is already on your plate. They can help you shuffle projects to ensure that work projects have a realistic deadline.
  • When your colleague comes to you and asks you to serve on an additional committee, don’t say “yes” right away; rather, say, “That sounds great. Let me think about it.” Buying yourself some time can make it easier to circle back to the individual to say “no … not right now.”
  • If a client asks you asks you to deliver work beyond the scope of the project, without any additional compensation, before you say “yes” to accommodate them, have the courage to say, “Let me revisit the agreed upon proposal and we will see how this fits in to our original agreement.”

It is also important to have an understanding of what projects, priorities and events are in front of you. We often commit our time without understanding what our future looks like. This knowledge helps us plan properly and ensures that we do not take on more than we are capable of delivering.

Leaders have to guard their credibility with their lives. Our credibility puts us in a position of influence – it is this quality that determines whether or not we are go-to person in our environment.

This article was provided courtesy of Lead Star – a premiere leadership development firm. You can learn more about leadership by visiting their website at

Coaching Call To Action

I applaud Angie’s comment about knowing all the projects, priorities and events that you are working on or soon will be. Some of the tools my clients use to track this information are: pen and paper, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook calendar, and project management software. What tool works best for you to keep all your projects front of mind so that you know when you need to say no? Share with us below.