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The Most Powerful Word in Leadership

Does this scene sound familiar, you are in your office and you hear a knock on the door, several thoughts go through your mind at the same time.
1. I don’t have time for this intrusion
2. I have a busy workload today
3. I have several reports to finish off for my boss
4. Why did I tell everyone I have an open door policy?
5. They ask for 5 minutes but take 20

As always, you ask the visitor to come in and there it is, the dreaded question, “Hi, do you have a spare 5 minutes, I need to run something by you”. You’re normal reply, “of course I do, COME IN” (bloody open door policy, back to haunt me again)
20 to 30 minutes later your visitor leaves happy that you have given them great advice and your valuable time, now it’s time to work at warp factor 9 (sorry for the Star Trek reference) to catch up and achieve your timescales for your reports.

The magic word that you should have used and should use more is NO, it’s OK to use this word, really it is, even with an open door policy you can still tell your employees NO “at the moment I don’t have 5 minutes to spare”. You can back that up with agreeing a suitable time that fits into your schedule when you are less busy. This way you still give them the quality time they ask for but its now on your terms at a time and date that suits you.
I worked in transport and logistics for 25 years and at one particular company I was leading and managing a very large site, I was on 9 different projects teams and part of 3 feasibility studies at the same time.

I had a review meeting with my then line manager who was not happy with the current performance of my site compliance, costs and service had taken a dip in the past month and he wanted to explore my recovery actions.
At this session I told him that I had spent only 6 days in the past 2 months on site due to the plethora of projects he asked me to be on. During this same meeting he asked me to represent him on another two projects and take his place on the senior management daily conference call (which was another one hour preparation each day at least).

When I say he asked me, this was the exact words “I need you to represent me on two projects as I don’t have the time and also for you to take my place on the daily senior managers conference call, it will be really good for your profile”
There it was, that word “PROFILE” I had been seduced by the thought of being thought of as the go to guy, the next best thing in the region and company, was I being played?

During our meeting I negotiated myself out of 8 of the 9 projects, I plucked up the courage to say NO to the other 2 he wanted me on and also said NO to the daily conference call, My first time saying NO was hard, it was nerve wracking and challenging but I felt relieved and proud of myself for using this very powerful small word.

As soon I used this once, the gloves were off. I had unleashed the NO monster inside me. I was always very polite and professional when turning down opportunities and projects, but I had the confidence to look at each request and see if I thought it add value to me and if it would affect my day job.

Did this affect my profile, NO, it had the opposite affect, I was still seen as the go to guy but was not seen as a manager that could be dumped upon. The language of my line manager changed towards me, he started asking “Do you have time in your schedule to represent me at this project or meeting” WOW. I had taken control of the relationship at last and all it took was putting two letters together. N and O.

Now, the best part, you too have it within you to take control of your career, work-life and your relationship with your boss. Like me I bet most of the time you say out load to yourself;
“There is not enough hours in the day to get everything done”
There is, you just need to be a little selfish with your time, here are

5 tips on how to claim back valuable time.
1. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your office door and communicate the meaning to everyone
2. If you have a deadline that is either past due or nearly due, give your mobile (Cell) phone to someone you trust and ask them to take messages until you are finished
3. If you are working on a project and the deadline is imminent, put your out of office message on your email or turn it off until you are finished
4. Read “eat that frog by Brian Tracy”, never put off your projects to the last minute, take ownership of them and get them done with time to spare.
5. Work from a calendar or a daily TO – DO list, this will help you plan your time more effectively

OK, so the most powerful word you have in your leadership arsenal from today onwards is the word NO, use it to your advantage, use it to reschedule meeting with your team (always reschedule, never ignore), use it to create a different relationship and conversation with your line manager.

I promise you this, if you respect this word and use it properly it will change your life forever and will aid your career progression not hinder it.

I am a personal branding coach, I work with managers from all levels and across various industries working on their skills, their confidence and their performance. I have introduced this word into so many managers language and watched their career soar from that day onwards.

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” Josh Billings

Check out my new book: Brand You New – You’re Hired
SWS Coaching Ltd
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