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Opinion: The power of saying no in business

Lessons learned if you're a "yes" person.

I have often found that where technology and financial services come together, the no’s are necessary. As such, shouldn’t we learn to make them happen productively? Saying no is an inevitability — or rather, it should be. Anyone who has tried to accommodate the ‘yes’s’ all the time could tell you that it is impossible to say yes to everything.

Those who try to say yes 100% of the time are often mistaken in thinking it’s working effectively for them and for those around them — even the parties they’re saying ‘yes’ to.

But, saying yes to everything removes us from the equation and renders our point of view immaterial. It makes our judgement about the effectiveness or outcomes moot.

The privilege of saying no

We should make saying ‘no’ a habit, but rather that the intuition, intelligence and experience that may lead us to consider ‘no’ as a viable conclusion are vital signals that we should not take for granted. The ability to bring these signals to bear involves first recognizing that as an option and then exercising it as an advantage — not only for us, but also on behalf of the people who are depending on us.

Capitalizing on the advantages of when to say ‘no’ can make the difference between good and great — between maintenance and breakthrough. Some of the best advice I ever received was when a former boss advised me to, “Say ‘no’ to the good, so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.” If you fill your plate with the “good,” then where is the time or room to take advantage of great opportunities that show up?

I heard another version of this advice when a coach commented on a personnel option he chose not to exercise: “Some of the best deals are the ones you don’t make.”

The boundaries of time

It becomes clearer where to set boundaries when we carefully consider our entire vision. Your end-goal is the guide that allows you to see what smaller goals lead toward, what challenges or actions may divert you away from it and what merely marks time.

Knowing what your “great” looks like can be a touchstone, a reference for when to agree to do something and when not to. While staying open to the unexpected, we can see opportunity in any development. The key is to keep our goals and vision in mind, and act distinctly.

Time is the ever-present resource on which we can exercise critical choices. Our calendars, schedules and agendas construct a gymnasium where purpose gains definition. Be deliberate in assigning time to the things that are most important to you and recognize that we must work on our business and not just in our business. This means apportioning time for analysis, strategy and evaluation.

If we only schedule operations and execution, then the business is running us. Therefore, we should make a point of scheduling the time to think — both alone and together.

The response you can expect

You may find it hard to practice saying no deliberately. If you’ve formed a habit of saying yes too often, it is easy to slip back into old patterns. The best way to overcome this sense of resistance is to stick with your plan and pay attention to what you’re getting in return.

Once you find that you have more time and energy to focus on what really matters to you, then the reward and value of saying no becomes more apparent.

Not everyone will understand when you say ‘no.’ This is not an obstacle, but rather a road sign. If everyone agrees with you, then it is unlikely that your decision is accomplishing anything worthwhile. Your options for dealing with this response can be yet another opportunity for progress.

Sometimes, explaining your decision can be a real opportunity to enhance the impact. It is vital that the timing and extent of your explanation isn’t seen as an apology or uncertainty. The risk of weakening your decision must be avoided, yet the chance to put the energy of understanding behind it can, on occasion, be worth taking.

Here, where technology and financial services come together, I have had the tremendous professional opportunity of seeing what works in real market situations, more or less immediately almost every day and I’m happy to share what I have learned.

Christy Soukhamneut is managing director of Mortgage Finance in Texas.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Texas Capital Bank.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Christy Soukhamneut at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Wheeler at [email protected]

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