Podcast Episode 74 – The Power and Struggle of Saying No


Saying yes comes at a cost. Understanding the cost of yes and the challenge of saying no can help you become a more effective leader.

The price of yes includes time, money and “busyness” that can impact our effectiveness. Also, saying no to the mediocre things means you can keep room for greatness.

This week we talk about the price of yes and provide some tools and techniques to help you say no when required.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:13

Hi there, welcome to the growth whispers where everything we talk about is building enduring great companies. My name is Brad Giles. And I am joined today as always, with my co host by my co host, Kevin Lawrence from Vancouver, Canada. Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:30

Doing great, Brad. It’s a Yeah, it’s a great day. Looking forward to the show we’re covering off tonight. It’s a topic that I need to keep focused on and working on myself. So I’m really looking forward to it.

Brad Giles  00:42

Awesome. So we always like to begin with a very simple word or phrase to kick us off as we advocate people doing meetings, what’s your word or phrase for today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:54

no, there’s a couple of different things rolling in my head. But it’s automation. Automation is the word of today. And it’s how do you get things in your world set up to take care of themselves. So whether it’s automating technology, although I’m having some hassle, with some technology, that’s making it more challenging, but I automate technology. Or it’s automating systems to allow people to manage themselves, ie reporting or things that create environments for people to do their best work without having to be constantly poked and prodded and reminded and reset. So yeah, automation, looking the automate in terms of systems. Obviously, technology can automate a lot of things. But what can you automate in terms of systems in particular to allow things to be to perform well, with a lot without a lot of intervention? Oh, you, Brad? Well, very good,

Brad Giles  01:46

very good. Um, how are you helping to educate your team? So I remember distinctly, probably about five years ago, we went to Las Vegas and I got to to a Zappos company on when Tony Shea, a very successful entrepreneur, and they had the philosophy to have a company library that any staff member could take books from, that they kept replenished. So they sort of curated a group of books that they felt were the best in general topics. And I remember going into the library just, yeah, just thinking this is a really cool way. And I mean, I do that with leadership teams, we have this thing called personal professional development that we work on each quarter. But are you keeping your team ahead of the growth curve? So yeah, it’s really just about growing, growing, the leaders within your team and your company, automating? I don’t know how to you’re the person who Mater meeting and

Kevin Lawrence  02:43

educating your team, automating educating your team, that’s a great weave in. Okay, well, let’s jump right into today. So today, we’re talking about the power and the corresponding struggle of saying no, no, Tuesday, one of the shortest words in English language, outside of I know, is a very powerful world word. And a difficult word for a lot of people. And even when we’re well intentioned, there are situations where things are at a decision point. And we can say yes or no, there’s many things are midstream. We can say yes or no. Or when something’s been running for a long time that sometimes we do need to say no, instead of Yes. And it’s almost like no, I’m sorry, yes, it’s assumed. So it’s the power of saying no, and the root of it today we’re talking about is that truly, we all have limited time. No, we have limited time on our hands. There’s always a limit to money to a certain degree. And we have a limit of energy. You know, how much energy we have the dedicated things, and truly thriving in our life. And thriving in our work and thriving in terms of self is just a matter of what you say yes. And what you say no to that’s it. Life is just saying yes and no, it’s very binary. And how we allocate those yeses and noes makes a huge impact on the rest of our world. And it’s not rocket science. But that’s kind of what we’re digging into today. The you know, the, the opportunity, but also the struggle of this magical word. No,

Brad Giles  04:20

yeah, I think that the thing about No, it can work really positively or really negatively against our true intent. And that’s why we kind of call it the power of saying no, or the why that matters. Because if you have a problem that you want to solve, sometimes saying no, can it can be counterintuitive, but it can be quite powerful. Sometimes you might want to make a decision. And you’re using the word no. In order to not say yes And that’s actually could be working against and kind of a bit of an anchor on your progress or your, your, your movement forward. So yeah, just really getting into what is it that no can do for us to help to free up our time and money?

Kevin Lawrence  05:16

It is. And it’s hard sometimes because we there’s tension or it’s awkward. Sometimes we just want to say yes, because we’re curious, or, and I’m really bad for saying yes. When I should say no, I have a lot of mechanisms in place. And we’ll get to some of those today. And some things that have really showed up in my world is if you, if you say yes to Okay, or mediocre opportunities, then you can sometimes be saying no to amazing opportunities, so there’s no room for them. But if you don’t say yes to some opportunities, sometimes there’s not as many coming that you might want. And there’s a lot of factors at play. So we’re just going to share with you some scenarios that we often end up getting stuck and no would be very powerful or helpful. And then we’ll give some specific techniques to help with saying no, when you kind of know that you should, or you have a feeling that you should. So the first thing one first situation. And we kind of talked in this one already, but it’s it’s reminding yourself when you’re making a decision by saying yes to this thing here, I actually am by default, I’m saying no to something else. So I’ll give an example in my world, you know, when I say yes to a client that needs some additional help, and I do the work myself, I’m saying no to my team having an opportunity to do this work, potentially. I’m also saying no to maybe having some extra free time. I’m also saying no to potentially having time with my kids, my partner, my parents, you know, I literally by saying yes to a project, I could be saying no. To 10 other things. Yeah. And I remind myself, because I love to help my clients and I love those additional projects. That’s a simple thing is just truly remembering in that moment. And realizing there’s consequences to every Yes. And then there’s also no consequences to every No.

Brad Giles  07:24

And I love that because it’s like you can have a pre prepared list mentally that you can have in your head. So when someone says, Do you think we could just maybe catch up for coffee, I just want to tap your brain about something or whatever The reason is that they say, then you can think intuitively, well, that means that I don’t get to spend time with my family, I don’t get to, you know, further my strategy, I don’t get to spend time with my team, whatever it might be, and all of those, or if you can have that simple checklist in your head as to the other things I’m saying no to if I say yes to you. It can make that No, just a little bit easier.

Kevin Lawrence  08:09

Sure. Or, like I said, almost an automated system, like my default answer to if someone wants to have coffee is no, I just don’t do it. And out of you know, 50 requests, I might do one and I know that might sound bad, it’s just I’ll jump on a phone call. Anytime I’ll talk to anyone for 15 minutes if it’s your client wants me to or somebody else wants me to. But the coffee, I’m gonna go physically in a half hour coffee takes an hour and a half. I just I’m just not interested I can cover what I need to on the phone. I don’t need more personal connection with people maybe during COVID but not now. So. So there’s you know, doing having that that checklist is one thing and having even a pre defined that you just don’t do certain things. Um, other situation, go ahead read.

Brad Giles  08:59

And that really leads us into kind of the second point that we’ve got here, which is when you feel the pressure to say yes, you know, if you’ve got that checklist, it makes it just a touch easier, because it is hard to say no. You don’t want to let the person down. Maybe you’ve got a personal relationship with them. Maybe you actually want to help them with their problem or issue as well. So it can be quite personally difficult to say no. And you’ve got to know that. No, you’ve got to know you’ve got to understand that that pressure to say yes is ever present. And it’s okay to say no.

Kevin Lawrence  09:43

Yeah, and what I do in those situations, again, I have hacks for all of these things because you know, I get stuck on these. is that when I feel pressure to say yes, I normally have it’s one of my techniques I use the wasn’t on the list here. I had it in a list of artists. I generally say, I’ve learned to in the moment almost never say yes. And I’ll say, Okay, let me think about that. Let’s chat tomorrow. Or let me talk to Janice, my right hand or Dean or someone on my team. Let me talk to somebody. And then I’ll get back to you. Because my default when people ask me to help us, I’m gonna say yes. So I have the same if I’m, if I’m, you know, shopping and thinking about buying something, I was in Quebec City, and I saw a painting I loved. I’m like, Okay, I got the information I wanted. And then I said, Okay, um, let me think about it. I’ll come back and add, there’s still a risk of not getting it. But I’ve just know, I step away when I feel that pressure, and I’m not sure there’s times when I know what I’m not sure. I defer. And, and I, yeah, let me think of what I come back, when I kind of my brain settles down that I know what the right decision.

Brad Giles  11:01

You know, the other one is, I don’t, I don’t do that. So it’s like you’re saying no, but you’re also providing a reason. And so some people can find it quite difficult to directly say no, and but to use your example of grabbing a coffee. Look, I don’t grab coffees, I just don’t do it. It’s one of my rules. Yeah, happy to have a phone call for like 15 minutes, if that’s gonna help you out. And you can use that across a whole range of things is that I don’t do that. That’s, I just don’t do it.

Kevin Lawrence  11:34

You know, it’s interesting. I’ve got a great example, I’ve got a piece of furniture sitting in my new place. That will be a reminder for a while and the couple $1,000 I lose on it? Because I didn’t say no, when I should have you not had an ad in this new place getting renovated. And someone persuaded me to buy this table. I liked the table. They showed me the color sample that they recommended, like no, I don’t like that color. It looks like a 1990s bedroom suite. It’s like pinky gray. I don’t like the color. They said trust me, trust me, it’ll look good because of this. And that I said, No. And they persisted, like five times. And finally I said, Okay. And now I got a freakin ugly pink table in the middle of my place. And, you know, it’s nothing that I’m gonna lose, I’m gonna basically I’m selling it, it’s brand new, but I’m selling it on marketplace, and all you

Brad Giles  12:30

know, is, you know, there’s a chance that could come into fashion

Kevin Lawrence  12:34

is, you know, I’m thinking, you know, actually, and it probably is in somebody’s house, it just isn’t impassion in mind, I don’t know when it’s a nice table on someone custom painted it to make it look beautiful, and all this stuff, and I can’t stand it. So that’s my, that’s my, that’s my decision. You know, I even though this person recommend, I said, Yes, I bought it. I’m stuck with it. And now a couple 1000 bucks later on, I already bought another one, you know, that I like and the thing is, it’s, there’s certain situations, and if the truth is I was super busy. I didn’t really have time to think about it. I’m like, No, and they were so persistent. I said, and that’s again, that’s on me, that’s my I made the choice. There’s a bunch of reasons. But you know, and every once in a while, we get a good reminder that I won’t do that again soon, at least not for another week. So the third one is when something just goes to four and needs to stop or just needs to end like that. It’s sometimes it’s like, you know, there’s a book called necessary endings. Oh, that’s actually quite a big book. It is it is actually in it’s a really good book. I really enjoyed it. Dr. Henry

Kevin Lawrence  13:42

It is That’s him. Correct. And, but when something comes too far, you just need to call it and whether it’s a project, whether it’s a product, whether it’s a supplier, whether it’s a friendship, whether it’s a car, it doesn’t matter, whether it’s an old sweatshirt or hoodie, whether it’s a relationship with a table, it was a very short term relationship, Brad, I’ve been seeing that table for a boat 27 days. And that’s that that was a very short term table relationship. But yes, you just got to call it and again, there’s that tension of ending it or throwing something away whatever it happens to be. It’s just, you know, you gotta remove the b grade stuff in your world to make room for the eighth grade. And that’s another scenario why my cover number four, Brad that you brought up this one? You really like this one?

Brad Giles  14:37

Yeah. So Henry cloud like just want to close that off because his book, necessary endings, it gives you great comfort in closing any of those things and it not only says it’s okay, it is why it’s so important to finish these things, study and moving on to the next one. So Sometimes you can be stuck on making a decision and you get analysis, paralysis, and you’re like, ah, I might just leave that decision. What about if I’m just white, or you can’t decide. And so you leave it there, and it just hangs over, you just hangs over you and occupies your mental bandwidth. And so if you’ve got one of those things, or two, or five or 20 of those on incomplete decisions, it’s it’s just sitting there, occupying your mind. So instead, simply saying no, can be okay, you can always restart that software project in the future for your company, if it seems, if it pops up again, in the priorities that you’re trying to set. Or you can always, you know, decide to buy another house in the future. If you want to start that again, but just saying we’re not, I can’t decide, I can’t commit to a yes. And therefore, I’m going to commit to a no, it’s not a kind of wiggly saying, hell yes. Or Hell no. It’s not a hell yeah, then it’s just a no, like, force yourself to be a bit binary in that area.

Kevin Lawrence  16:24

It is, and that’s when I use that one a lot. If I’m not sure if I’m stuck in the middle, it means no, because when I really want something, I really want something, it’s really obvious. So haryanto was great. The second thing on that one, is there’s some decisions that can be easily changed or reversed. Right and some things can’t. So you know, what you’re reminding yourself the the the the the cost of change if you don’t like the decision. The other piece on this is what I call is toads in my book, right? There’s a book in your oxygen mask versus a chapter called liqueur, toads. And these are things you just keep thinking about. And they start burning up mental bandwidth, and they clutter your mind incomplete things. Decisions is one of them. So you know, if it don’t, you know, just find a way to decide and I say don’t obviously do that nastiest thing first thing each morning, but a lot of times it’s decisions. Yeah. Because there’s, there’s friction around decisions are lingering things, and it burns up space. So Hellyar, no lingering decisions, some point, just decide. And you can say no, or sometimes you can just say not now, like, I’m not ready, let me think about this, you know, I’m happy to revisit it in January, or whatever it happens to be. It’s also hard when you’ve got thing I’ve got with my kids, you know, you get some things where you got multiple people trying to decide. And that’s really, really hard. And again, you know, sometimes saying no, fine, we just won’t do it is the best choice. If he can’t find a way and then sometimes even by saying no, people will come back and almost to have a stronger desire to push through. Like when you just sort of you know, call it quits, but sometimes get it off and get it off people’s mind.

Brad Giles  18:11

Yeah, we want to force those decisions. We’ve spoken before about the importance of the weekly meeting. And part of that is that you have all the decision makers and influences in the room. And so when you’ve got that, that enables you to be able to force those decisions and now is okay, but an absence of a decision isn’t perhaps not okay. Correct.

Kevin Lawrence  18:36

And then the next thing excited number five is that sometimes you just got to change your mind. And I’ve learned with some of the best entrepreneurs I work with, they always reserve the right to change their mind. They have no problem changing their mind if they need to. And so we interviewed one of the CEOs who work with them Greg Smith of think if ik is one of our clients that has done exceptionally well went public massive valuation, massive success. And he told the story and I haven’t written down and I forget who it was it’ll but it basically is a story about strategy. And the story is about this captain of the ship and I think it was in more than movies like Waterworld or something like that. And the captain just goes you know, they don’t know they can’t see that it was okay work no any points a certain direction. And all the men start rolling like crazy. And his right hand goes um, is their land over there. He’s like, I don’t know. He was on Why are you saying you know full steam ahead go that direction. And they’ll steam in this case is men paddling. He’s up because well, we’ll go for a month and then we’ll either we’re going to see land or we’ll see something else in the mall. Fix it then but right now we need to do something. Right and it’s you know, there’s a lot of things around strategies trying things you don’t have to make perfect decisions. As long as when you realize your decision is imperfect, you make a change. And so when you reserve your right to change, and in some cases say no to something or to you know, Collins would call it, you know, shooting a bullet and then choosing to not to shoot anymore. That is incredibly important when you have the Epiphany and you just know you need to change. And that’s critical. And that’s hard for some people. But it’s, it’s critical if you’re going to continue to find ways to improve

Brad Giles  20:29

Yeah, give yourself a license to change your mind, throughout the course of the decision making process, when the time when you’re launching something, I always say that to leaders, like, make sure that you don’t, you don’t come up with an idea. And then suddenly you say, this is our new bright, shiny object, and then suddenly, you get six weeks down the track. And I’m like, Oh, that was such a dumb idea. Why do we do that? Instead, instead, share the process with them and say, This is what we’re thinking about doing? And how does that resonate with you. And

Kevin Lawrence  21:06

perfect, allows you to change your mind allows you to iterate allows you to make progress allows you to stop stupid mistakes, or bad decisions. And a D risks decision sometimes too, if you can do that. So a couple of other techniques we’ve listed in here is look at the cost of not saying no time, energy and money. We touched on that a little bit. Yeah. But really what it is there are sometimes there is a big cost of continuing to say yes, you know, we have one business that we worked with, and they had a division. Just want to perform. We did the math, it was 75 grand a month. Yeah. Right, and not dealing with it. And at some point we finally ended up did or ended up dealing with it. So let’s do a calculation, which we talked about a little bit earlier on. Another one I love is is is an contrast as well. But it’s not now versus No. Yeah, like not now. It’s and you’re not saying no, forever. By the way. Another technique I’ve learned and with, especially with entrepreneurial leaders are entrepreneurs, many don’t like the word No, I actually have a plaque. I haven’t set it up yet my new place it says, do it because they tell you you couldn’t write science in there. But, you know, for a lot of entrepreneurs, you say no, and they’re not going to accept it. Yeah, they want to know, in what case? Could we or How is it possible? Or? or How much is it going to cost? So what I’ve learned with entrepreneurs, instead of saying no, and say they have a really bad idea, I’ll just say, Okay, well, how can we take that idea? and have it produced 10 million a year of profit? Yeah. Right. Like if it’s gonna produce a million, and that’s not enough in the context of their business, just asking a question and raising it up. So raising the bar, versus just saying, no, that’s not going to work? Because it’s even though it might be true. Sometimes it doesn’t land so well.

Brad Giles  23:04

Yeah, I like that one. I like that one a lot. Equally. The previous one, you mentioned it, just to reiterate, there is a cost that we are bearing, there’s a cost of time, there’s a cost of money. Think about if I am or I’m not saying no. Like, is this stopping me? Or is this costing me more time or more money? This is the constraints that we’ve all got. And of course, then the last one that we’ve got is Jim Collins, stop this. So this isn’t necessarily No, but this is applying this principle in a slightly different way. So that we’re able to say, Okay, so what are the things that I need to stop? Or say no to? So what are the things that that are consuming too much time or money, or energy is we just kind of alluded to? So the gym constantly is a great, great tool to force you to figure out what to say no to create a list.

Kevin Lawrence  24:04

Yeah, and getting teams to go through and brainstorm and have everyone commit to one thing they can say no to themselves, which is healthy to free up bandwidth in this system. And then have them recommend the top things that the company could say no to. Great list, lots of good thinking. So just to kind of summarize real quickly that it’s about saying no, and really the principle is that we have limited resources. And if we say yes to some things, and don’t say if we don’t say no, and end up saying yes, we’re saying no to a bunch of other things, because of our finite resources that we have, and everyone has fun, and it might be okay. And maybe you can pull it off and do both things. And then and the other thing is, is that you can also fill the bucket with mediocre things versus leaving room for awesomeness and this is the bucket of your life or your work. And you’ll say yes to one thing say no to one other. We Talk about sometimes under pressure, we say yes and almost under duress or social pressure. And we talked about, you know, hey, let me think about that, or I don’t really do that, or I’m not interested, or let me discuss it. But if you’re really feel pressure, sometimes deferring it to somebody else, I really want to cover number three,

Brad Giles  25:23

when something goes too far, and it needs to be stopped, sometimes things just keep on going. And then next was stuck on making a decision. So sometimes we can get analysis paralysis, and we can be in this kind of middle spot between yes and no. And we need to force ourselves to say it’s hell, yes, or hell no. And it’s okay to do that. Next, and sometimes you just need to change your mind, you’ve got to leave yourself, the space, the capability to be able to force yourself to say, you know what, we tried it. And now we’re going a different way. And that’s okay. And then we just went through a few different types of techniques. For example, not now, how to make it bigger, better, faster, instead of No, rather than saying, No, we can look at it to kind of apply a third element into this no concept. So yeah, that I think that kind of sums up where we’re at. Exactly. And

Kevin Lawrence  26:27

the final thing is that I moved around them list their bread and butter is the stock list by Jim Collins. I was sorting. But it’s the stock list by Jim Collins and just getting as a regular activity, whether it’s at the end of a quarterly meeting, or just having teams think about what they need to say no to because it’s not natural. And organizations get bogged down with a bunch of stuff that just doesn’t need to happen. Well, it was a good chat about No. So thanks for listening everyone. This has been the growth whispers podcast with Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence. And you can reach Brad at evolution partners comm.au and myself, Kevin at Lawrence and co calm and the YouTube versions just search for the growth whispers on YouTube. Have an awesome weekend that we hope you practice saying no more often than you might have. Otherwise, have a great one.