Five Ways I've Mastered the Art of Decline: Empowering Strategies for Cultivating Business and Personal Growth
Every time I begin a leadership coaching assignment with a leader or begin working with a new client organization, I focus on listening. The goal is to build relationships. I keep it simple. In the first few weeks, at the end of every conversation, I normally ask, "So, to what do you say no?"
It is a simple question. About 95% of the time, the person or boardroom looks really perplexed. Why? They have never asked themselves the question. I know at this moment, this means more work for my firm, which is great for us, and always an eye opening moment for the leader or organization, which is great for them and an opportunity to go deeper into the work.
A leader and an organization who is not clear about their 'No' likely struggles with vision and strategy. If you are clear on your purpose, you are clear on your "No's." If you ask me about my firm's 'No's,' I can quickly lay them out for you.
I say No:
To potential clients and opportunities that are not value aligned with my firm's commitments. I have turned down multiple opportunities in 2023 because I did not believe in a client's mission or believed the leader only wanted to work with my firm to help meet the diversity quota.
To opportunities that do not advocate for and amplify the voices and lives of Black women as well as other Indigenous, People of Color, and marginalized populations.
To clients who will not allow my firm to operate in its creative freedom. We make it clear that we are not cookie cutter and we seek to unbox, and in some cases throw away the whole box when it comes to strategy development and organizational change rooted in racial justice.
To leaders and client organizations who aren't willing to trust us and be transparent in solutioning. We take pride in our humble, nonjudgmental approach. Thus you need to be willing to take the journey with us and trust that we will work through the hard, bad, and the ugly but we will also be honest and operate in integrity. That is the only way to move through difficult change and movement building.
To work that will take us away from the things that make us whole: self care, spending time with family, vacations, dinner with friends, professional development, attending worship services.
Our priorities are clear and these experiences mean more to me than a few extra zeros on a paycheck.
Learning to say 'No' is one of the wisest decisions any leader and organization can make. I have seen exponential business growth in 2023 and have been in rooms with some of the most influential people around the globe via leaning into the word, "No." I have been a part of and worked with organizations that say yes to everything and they wonder why they are constantly battling issues with employee mental health, a lack of organizational resiliency, and constant workforce turnover.
Your 'No' is a yes to your values, your identity, and your commitments.
You create space with more 'No's.'
Has your 'yes’ been based on fear, scarcity, or insecurity? Let me be clear, I was raised by a single mother who worked 2-3 jobs her entire life to provide for myself and my sibling. Therefore, it took me a long time to not make choices based on concerns of scarcity. There are seasons and circumstances that push people to "do what they have to" to make ends meet. This message is not for them.
This message is for those individuals and organizations who need to read, "There will always be another client opportunity, speaking engagement, job candidate, grant deadline, and more." Filter your No's and the Yes's will be more aligned with consistent revenue, stronger partnerships, dedicated employees, and authentic engagements tailored to move you and your organization closer to effective growth and authentic partnership building.
So, I ask again, "What is your 'No' in 2024?"