Tech Leadership in So Many Words…#19 No

Andrew Weaver
February 3, 2024

My biggest flaw as an entrepreneur was a lack of judgment about when to say yes (a natural inclination) and when to say no (suffering from FOMO).

The uncertainty of start-up life meant that I wanted to keep all options open as long as possible which of course, proved completely counter productive as it diluted the narrow focus I needed for any kind of success.

The importance of judging how and when to say no is equally important in managerial and leadership roles because a key challenge we have as developing leaders is how to manage the people-pleaser element that doesn’t want to upset others or let them down, alongside that fear of missing out.

NO might be the smallest word we use, but it’s often the most important one to master.

As you grow into a strategic role within your organisation, the importance of time management, delegation and learning when to say no increases exponentially.

So what stops us from saying NO?

Often, it’s as simple as not knowing how to do it.

What’s the best way to tell people you don’t have the time, or it’s not a good idea or frankly, you just don’t want to do it?

One key consideration is not just saying no, but to explain why you’re saying no — what is the context behind your decision.

It helps if you’re working in a psychologically safe environment where mutual trust allows the team to feel comfortable about stating their capacity and ring-fencing their priorities.

Another key area is managing the iterative feedback loop with stakeholders where you’re under pressure to say yes but at the risk of trying to be all things to all people, an anxiety compounded by the power dynamic of a paying client?

The key is taking time to digest what you’re being asked and avoid rushing into a yes.

How do you say NO and mean it?

I leave you with six bullet points:

1. Learn how to say no politely. Be direct and stick to facts in your answer.

2. If an opportunity or meeting presents itself, before saying yes, ask yourself how much time it will require and whether the potential outcome is worth it.

3. Manage your energy. Understand the rhythms of your day; block out time when you’re most productive and protect it.

4. Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise… damn those “to-do” lists, but they are essential.

5. Protect your team. Say no on their behalf to ensure they’re not working over capacity.

6. Provide a role model that empowers others in the team to learn the art of saying no.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself”

Paolo Coelho

Download Our Free eBook!

90 Things You Need To Know To Become an Effective CTO

CTO Academy Ebook - CTO Academy

Latest posts

Senior Engineer Struggling to Meet Expectations post featured image

Case Study: Senior Engineer Struggling to Meet Expectations

The CTO of a start-up is facing a challenge with a Senior Engineer who, despite a promising start and strong technical skills, is delivering work […]
What's the fuss with tech debt - blog featured image - CTO Academy

What’s All the Fuss About Tech Debt?

91% of global tech leaders identified tech debt as a 'major concern'. So in this article, we take a deep dive into tech debt with […]
Addressing Leadership Challenges in Cross-Departmental Collaboration-featured image

Case Study: Addressing Leadership Challenges in Cross-Departmental Collaboration

An organisation has embarked on a new journey, setting cross-departmental objectives that necessitate seamless collaboration among the subteam leaders from different departments. A team lead, […]

Transform Your Career & Income

Our mission is simple.

To arm you with the leadership skills required to achieve the career and lifestyle you want.

Save Your Cart
Share Your Cart