Saying NO, to Thrive
I write today after a whirlwind excursion through Italy. Beautiful light, gorgeous vistas, exquisite food… what’s not to like? Did I mention the food? THIS IS REAL PASTA. My trip to Italy is an expression of my self-care, my work/life balance. Years ago, I made a personal commitment to work to live, not live to work. Do you know the difference? While I deeply appreciate the work I do in leadership, DEI, and innovation, I never let my work control my life or steal my joy. What about you? I feel strongly that workplace satisfaction hinges on setting and honoring solid boundaries.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says, “The art of leadership is saying NO, not saying YES. It’s easy to say YES.” I’ll add this: saying NO is the easiest way to keep you sane in the workplace. If you couple your NOs with healthy doses of delegation, outsourcing, and alignment – connecting your personal development with your job – then you’ll not only be happy in the workplace, but in fact, you’ll thrive.
Repeat After Me… NO!
Let’s dive into the Nos. I like to think of “No” as a complete sentence. You should also. Too often we hedge by qualifying our “No” with add-ons like “Well, maybe just this time.” Let your no be your NO. This is especially important for the leaders out there. While you may be able to do many of your team members’ jobs, you shouldn’t… YOU MUST NOT. Delegate and outsource, don’t give into the temptation of micromanaging everyone else’s work. Also, think about why you have a hard time saying “No” in the first place. Often, our inability to deliver the sentence “No” is a byproduct of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of what people might think. Fear of hurting other people. Let this debilitating mindset go. Attorney and thought leader Heather Moulder says, “Saying “no” isn’t about the no. It’s an enforcement mechanism to preserve your boundaries. And boundaries are the rules you need to protect your priorities and your well-being.” Hear that last section again. Boundaries protect your priorities and your well-being. NO is an act of self-care.
Beyond the Boundaries
With your boundaries set and maintained, you can shift to alignment. Truth is, we all want to do work that is fulfilling, not just a financial means to an end. Alignment means the work you do is synced with your passion and your personal values. Said another way, happiness is stoked when we see our work as doing some good in the world and our work doing some good in us. My trip to Italy, for example, is an outgrowth of my deep appreciation for the wondrous diversity in the world. Similarly, I want to work in organizations that offer more than lip service to DEI. Because I value the beauty and ability of all people, I could never work for an organization that does not. Alignment also means I practice courage in the workplace by fighting for progressive DEI initiatives that protect great people and stoke great innovation. If I never set boundaries, I would have no capacity to engage in the kind of thought leadership that moves organizations forward. I wouldn’t be enjoying this gelato either.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that job satisfaction among US workers is at a 32 year high. A surplus of jobs in all sectors of the economy contributes to the strong report, as many workers can be selective in choosing who they’ll work for and what they’ll do. Pandemic-inspired flexibility also feeds the uptick in job satisfaction as many workers can now opt for remote or hybrid work arrangements. It’s a buyer’s market, after all. That said, I know plenty of colleagues who are miserable in their settings despite receiving a handsome salary and benefits package.
Ready to move from misery to thriving? Say No and mean it, then, seek alignment.
Meanwhile, I’ll sip on this amazing glass of Italian wine.