I recently had a conversation with my 23 year old daughter who just quit her job to go to graduate school. Her boss asked her if she could come back in a couple of months to help cover for someone who was going out on medical leave. She was struggling with this decision because she felt an obligation to her soon-to-be former employer. She could do it, but deep down she really wanted to be free to focus on her new studies. She really has trouble saying no so we got into a whole discussion about it that got us both thinking.
Here are my takeaways (hopefully hers too?):
- What you say no to is perhaps more important to your career than what you say yes to! The question ‘why not?’ is a one that should be at the top of your tool box.
- Why do we have to keep learning this lesson the hard way? Is it because we don’t value our own time and energy enough? Do we underestimate what it truly will take to be fully committed?
- Is it because we don’t want to disappoint others so badly that we are willing to sacrifice our own wants?
- Being focused and fully committed to what you want is tremendously helpful to staying on track. The No’s are a lot easier when we are truly focused and going toward a clear goal.
- Defining what is not acceptable ahead of time is key.
So-how do you say no?
You have to find your own way, but here are some ideas that we discussed:
- Delay the decision until you can get clarity. Don’t make knee-jerk decisions and say yes when you are in doubt. It’s fine to say “let me think about that.” If someone presses, ask them when they need an answer.
- Offer them an alternative. “I can’t do that, but have you asked…..?”
- Let them know what your conflict is and see if they can accommodate to your satisfaction. You could say something like “I really want to be able to focus on school, and keeping my grades up is my top priority.” See what they say.
- Let them know what you could offer. This is not really a no, so you have to stick to your boundaries. If you are unable to stick to your boundaries, then you might like to read the book by that title!
Saying No is something every business owner has to do, often. Learning to say No with grace and poise is something that can really help propel your business. A lot of the really profitable CPA practices we’ve seen have owners that are highly focused and say no often.