The Incredible and Incalculable Power of No

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Terry Starbucker | 0 comments

the power of noIt’s so easy for a leader to say yes.

Its a simple nod of the head, or a “yep“, or an “OK“, or a smile and a “sure“.

And, we like to throw in an embellishment for good measure.

“No problem!”

Most ambitious leaders like to think of themselves as doers, so to turn anything down is akin to failing, or looking less than the awesome superperson that we’re supposed to be.

There’s something insidious at work here- fear.

We fear the “no” because of what we think the consequences would be.

“Oh, you can’t do this, can you – oh my goodness, you aren’t superperson!  You are letting me down.   You are missing the boat.   You’re missing out on something.  You, you, are just so….negative.”

Indeed, those imagined responses get us every time.   So much so, that we can’t help but utter this word.


But the fact is, “yes” gets us in more trouble than “no” by a country mile.

In the more human universe that most of us play in,  ”yes” is a verbal contract.  An assent to something I asked for, offered, or proffered.   It’s not a “maybe“, “possibly, if I can find the time“, or “yesbut I reserve the right to change my mind later“.

So if that contract isn’t met, it breaks something.   Something ever so critical to a leader’s effectiveness.


No“, on the other hand, may cause some disappointment, but we can get over that pretty fast.   Breaking trust is a different story.

It just boils down to this – we need to learn how to say “no“.

No” gives us the power to put our very best feet forward after the times we DO say “Yes“.

No” gives us the time to more deliberately choose the “Yes“.

No” gives us our best chance to be the great leader we want to be.

My mentor Bill Bresnan summed up the power of no so well for me many years ago:

“Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t do”

Great leaders don’t have to be a superperson.

They just have to be more human.

Lead well!

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