How To Improve Performance By Saying No

July 10, 2014
# min read
Janice Giannini

Over the years, I have spoken with hundreds if not thousands of executivesand leaders. The following topic arises more frequently than you might think.

"You know, we have these conversations and we just can't quite seem tocome to closure. If they are not interested, just tell me no thanks. Then wecan move on".

Ask yourself the following two questions: "Has this ever happened tome"? "Do I do this too"? If the response is yes, then considerthere might be a more effective way to handle the interaction.

Here's an example. The actual example is far less significant than the timespent in your head dealing with the scenario.

How many times have you called someone, and they did not return the call?What played-out in your head?

·     Well, it was a cold call, and they don't know me

·     They are just too busy now

·     They don't want to be bombarded by telephone calls and don't really want myservices anyway 

·     I need to get over it and move on

Now suppose I change the scenario. They had initially called you. Now, youare calling back to follow up as they had committed to get back to you. Nowwhat plays in your head?

·     They are busy and forgot

·     Maybe they are waiting for input from somebody else before they call me

·     They are rude

·     They may not be interested

·     They are not interested and can't say "No thank you".

·     I need to get over it and move on

Consider how many times you have had conversations with a person todetermine if there was sufficient interest to move forward. When you determinethere really isn't enough reason to move forward, how often do you call theperson and just let them know that? How often do we avoid the call because weare uncomfortable saying the word "No" ?

Why does it matter what you do? It matters because when you choose to avoidsaying "No thank you" - you are leaving a lot of personal andorganizational productivity on the table.

Seems like a big leap? Well I invite you to consider the following intendedand unintended consequences of that one simple action.

·     How much time did you think about saying "No thank you" beforeyou decided to avoid the conversation?

·     When the person is persistent, how many times do you need to "continueto avoid them"?

·     How much does avoiding closure waste your energy and focus?

·     How much might it defocus others around you? 

·     How much confusion is caused by leaving the conversation "open"?

·     If everyone simply knew the answer was "No", how could theyproductively spend their energies?

Allocate time to each of these questions above then multiply by dollars perhour and by the number of people impacted. What does that dollar figure looklike? As former Senator Everett Dirksen once quipped, "A Billion here anda Billion there and before you know it adds up to real money."


·     What is stopping you from simply saying "No."?

·     How big does that number need to be before you'll change your behavior?

·     When will you commit to getting all yourpeople focused and productive and no longer playing a waiting game?

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