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Say No To Saying No


Sorry, I can't today.

I often hear people talk about ‘putting their foot down’ and saying no to new tasks, new projects and, potentially, new opportunities. Often it’s accompanied by the similarly frustrating, and in my view, myopic ‘not unless I get properly rewarded for it’.


Where is this coming from? This sense of ‘I’m totally committed…between 9 and 5… and only if it falls within the bounds of what I’m prepared to give…but I’d still like that pay rise, promotion and if it’s not too much trouble, I’ll take the company BMW too, thank you very much’.


Early on in my career I worked with someone whom I initially thought was a bit of a, well, tosser. Anytime there was a project to be managed or a job to be done, he’d be front of the queue. “Pick me, pick me!” would’ve been his personal mantra. It wouldn’t matter that others were better qualified, he was in like Flynn, taking on every opportunity.


I used to think this was shameless self-promotion, and in truth, there was a component of that, but when we eventually sat down and talked about it, he explained it as such “I am (well, was) totally invested in the company, and it wasn’t so much about putting myself up for promotions, it was about taking the ownership to do it right. Yes, I probably didn’t trust everyone as much as I could have, but I wasn’t prepared for the job to be done half right. So if it had to be done, I might as well be the one to do it.”


Truth be told, more often than not, he got it right. When he didn’t, the results he’d already put on the board helped soften the blow, and sure enough, when you weighed up his contributions, it was no wonder he moved up swiftly in any of the organisations he’s worked for.


There’s a balance, obviously, but this new age of saying no, or wanting to be rewarded at the outset is an odd one. Like my old mate, I believe the opportunity, ironically, lies in the opportunity. If I could go back and give my younger self one piece of advice, it’d be “ease up on the meat pies buddy”, but then I’d slip in “say yes to everything, even if you’re not sure how to do it. You can work it out.”


The best learning comes from being outside your comfort zone and taking a chance… on yourself. Back yourself to do something, don’t worry about the short term reward, if you don’t get anything financial or in the form of a promotion, you’ll get something you can’t put a price on – experience, achievement, accomplishment. Even if you get it wrong, it would have been worth the challenge because you (in all likelihood) would have learnt something from it.


So the next time an opportunity presents itself, don’t look at the workload or the stress, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say “yes”. The journey will make it all worthwhile.


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