Have you ever heard the expression “if you think you CAN’T or if you think you CAN”, you’re correct?
For many people, the most difficult word to say is one of the shortest and easiest in the vocabulary: No. Go ahead, say it aloud: No.
No – simple to pronounce, hard to say. We’re afraid people won’t like us, or we feel guilty. We may believe that a “good” employee, child, parent, spouse, or Christian never says no.
The problem is, if we don’t learn to say no, we stop liking ourselves and the people we always try to please. We may even punish others out of resentment.
When do we say no? When no is what we really mean.
When we learn to say no, we stop lying. People can trust us, and we can trust ourselves. All sorts of good things happen when we start saying what we mean.
If we’re scared to say no, we can buy some time. We can take a break, rehearse the word, and go back and say no. We don’t have to offer long explanations for our decisions.
When we can say no, we can say yes to the good. Our no’s and our yes’s begin to be taken seriously. We gain control of ourselves. And we learn a secret: “No” isn’t really that hard to say.
Today, I will say no if that is what I mean.
Something might happen today that upsets you. Someone could be rude, your car might break down, one of your employees might mess something up despite your very detailed instructions. Your natural reaction may be to yell and get angry. It’s just instinctive.
But, although it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. A great Roman, Marcus Aurelius, observed, “how much more harmful are the consequences of anger…than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”
Getting angry might make you feel better for a brief second, but will it actually solve the problem? Of course not. Arguing with a rude person only invites them to be rude for a longer period. Getting angry over car trouble doesn’t fix the car, but it will raise your blood pressure. Dressing down the employee who screwed up? Now they’ll either resent you or they’ll be more likely to mess up again in the future because they’re nervous and self-conscious and – maybe – embarrassed if others heard the exchange.
Quick, think for a moment about the worst boss you ever worked for.
Most people would say, their worst boss was much more preoccupied with themselves than on leading them. They likely were someone who didn’t support you, didn’t seek or value your ideas, and didn’t treat you with respect. They probably didn’t get the best work from you, either. Working for jerks doesn’t do much a person’s motivation and morale.
Having worked with many leaders over the years, I’m convinced that leaders who focus more on “the troops” have far greater success than those who focus on themselves. I’ve also seen this many times: the more self-absorbed a leader is, the more likely it is that he or she will experience a humbling failure.
The more successful leaders in the military or business are servant-leaders. Instead of treating “their troops” as resources who do work for them, leaders look to be a resource for them:
- They collaborate with them to set goals.
- They remove barriers to their performance.
- They provide skill-stretching assignments and training opportunities.
- They give them air cover when pressure comes down from above.
Leadership, in other words, is not about you; it’s about them.
The fastest way to great results is taking a genuine and active interest in helping others succeed. When you focus on using your leadership for the good of others, you take a genuine interest in getting to know their needs, goals, aspirations, and gifts.