Saying No: Why Turning Down Opportunities Should Be Part of Your Strategic Plan

Sarah Hood

Sometimes closing one door is the best way to open a new one. Are you afraid to say no? In a work culture that values …

Sometimes closing one door is the best way to open a new one.

Saying No: Why Turning Down Opportunities Should Be Part of Your Strategic PlanAre you afraid to say no? In a work culture that values a “can-do” attitude, it can be scary to turn down any project or opportunity. We fear we’ll appear unwilling, incompetent or just plain lazy. But in fact, saying no is a powerful tool to help individuals and organizations focus on what’s most important so they can make progress on their big goals.

There are so many useful nos! There are the little nos that help us maintain a healthy life-work balance, like “no email after 9 p.m.” or “no conference calls at the cottage”. Then there are the big nos that are so hard to utter, like turning down a great job offer or an exciting client.

We should view these glittering opportunities as a test of our personal or corporate vision. If we’ve done our visioning and strategic planning properly, we can hold them up to any enticing new proposition to see whether they match. If so, great. If not, just say no!

Craig Cincotta is the Vice President of Brand Communications for He put the case for saying no very well in a June 2015 article in Entrepreneur magazine titled ”Four Reasons Why You Should Say Yes to Saying No”. “If you just say yes to every potential need or request that comes your way you are limiting your ability to focus; you begin to create ripples of productivity when you should be making waves,” he writes.

Cinotta also makes the important point that if we never say no, we don’t give others a chance to step up to offer to take on the task at hand. This is a critical mistake that many leaders make. Learning to delegate is one of the few effective ways to build the skills of those around you.

In an August 2014 article in Fortune titled “Why Saying No Gets You Ahead”, executive coach and author Camille Preston writes that “in order to reach your goals you have to build some fences to guard and protect yourself so you can grow. This means discriminating between the things that help you get there and the things that don’t.”

But sometimes even your own strategic plan won’t assist you in making that distinction; perhaps you have two potential projects ahead of you, but you can’t do both. Neither is perfect, but neither is perfectly wrong. This is where workplace intuition comes in. If you listen to your gut, you may become aware of a faint murmur of caution that tells you to steer clear of one, or even both. Another “no” moment.

Ultimately, saying no with confidence is about knowing who you really are. Your strategic plan is a path that will take you to your desired destination. It’s okay to take some short detours along the way, but when that shiny limo rolls up to you, and the elegant chauffeur leans out and offers to give you a free ride in the opposite direction, you need to politely refuse and keep walking—however slowly—towards your dream. That’s the power of saying no.

Have you ever opened a door by saying no to an opportunity that seemed too good to be true? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.

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Sarah B. Hood is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She writes well researched, fresh and engaging articles on news and lifestyle topics like food, culture, design, urban life, environment and travel.

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