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John O’Leary of John O’Leary Inspires recognizes that if you’re saying yes to everything, you may be missing out on the most important things.  

“I love the concept of yes. And it must always be counterbalanced with this idea that if you say yes to everything, you’re saying no to probably the most important things.” John O’Leary Author and Founder of John O’Leary InspiresEpisode 15

A skill most seasoned leaders have is a honed ability to know when to say no. Strategically, it’s an important skill to have as it ensures you focus your most limited resource, time, on where it matters most. It’s important to give yourself and your time to the right projects, causes, and activities. This can be especially important for leaders of nonprofit organizations and organizations that look to serve underserved communities.  

On the Zero Excuses podcast, host Nick Smarrelli almost always asks the leaders what they say no to, and how they can confidently make that decision.  

Here are some of the answers from our nonprofit Zero Excuses leaders: 

Tina Cloer of the Children Bureau takes relationships and impact into account when she is deciding if she can commit to something.  

“What I’ve learned in my role is the value of relationships. And so I really try to look at when people are asking me to do things or to be places, I try to look at that relationship and what benefit I can be to them and what benefit they can be to me or the organization and kind of weigh those things out. If anything, I tend to say yes too often. But I am getting better about it. So every month I take a look at my calendar and look forward and see what do I have in my calendar. What have I said yes to that should really be somebody else’s. And I made an accountability partner for myself.” Tina Cloer,  President of  The Children’s Bureau,  Episode 010.   

For Kristen Wild of Operation Food Seach, saying no is about giving life to your priorities. She believes it’s important to remember that we are all human and we’re all just doing our best.  

“It’s really been important to figure out priorities and recognize that not every email can get answered and not every meeting can happen the way I’d like for it to happen and not everything on the to do list that was set in January for 2020 can get done. Recognizing that we are human and we can only do so much and we just need to do our best.” Kristen Wild  Executive Director of  Operation Food Search,  Episode 014.  

There can be a certain guilt associated with saying “no” or delegating a task to someone else on the team for leaders. Zero Excuses leaders see the opportunity in the word ”no” and use it grow their team and further their mission – saying “no” means you are saying “yes” to your values. Understanding the difference between something you need to take care of and something you need to say no to can be difficult. It takes time to get it right. But once you’ve got it down, it can really be a Zero Excuses superpower.  

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