Let's LEAD - September 2022

'Yes' is a complete sentence. So is 'no.'

When I was a kid, this clever tool was the 1970's version of the Magic 8-ball... 

Fortune Teller Gif Artist GIF by bad arithmetic  

Enter my Judge...who along with my Hyper-Achiever would remind me that I wasn't allowed to say 'no.' Saying 'no' means I'm not a team player...it means I'm not a good friend...

When I was young, I didn't feel like I had the option to say no. This continued into adulthood and I believed it to be true at work as well. My boss was asking (or telling) me to do something, so I didn't have a choice. In my head, 'yes' was the clear (and only) answer. 

So...make it work. 

AND...in those times when I DID have a choice, WHY was I still saying 'yes' when I really wanted to say 'no?'

I didn't believe my reasons for saying no were good enough. 'I don't want to' wasn't good enough. 

Years ago I was part of a small group studying personal development when it was suggested by our facilitator that we each consider going on a 10-day silent retreat in the desert.

Ummm...do you KNOW me? I wouldn't last the first day.

As we went around the room, each person shared their decision. Most said no with reasons that no one would argue with and one wanted to think about it.

Then it came to me.


"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to."

They were aghast, and so was I. I couldn't recall ever being that steadfast in a 'no' before. Especially one that I couldn't rationalize. I just didn't want to.

I felt a little sick to my stomach, and it felt great.

Last month, we continued to develop our Self-Leadership by building our Self-Regard...taking a look at our self-belief and our sense of WORTHINESS. 

This month, we'll start to express our Self-Leadership through Self-Care, starting with setting clear BOUNDARIES.

Let's define 'boundary': a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

Okay, well...we can see how creating boundaries covers a lot of territory:

  • With myself; if my goals and priorities are clear, my decisions around how I spend my time should be as well. 
  • In relationships with friends, family; to what are we willing to say yes or no...to tolerate, or not? 
  • At work; how many extra hours are you willing to work? For how long?

This year, I made a commitment to myself: to say 'yes' to the things that HONORED my priorities, and to say 'no' to the things that don't. 

Is something keeping you from honoring your priorities? For example, if a priority is to spend more time with your family, then taking on more volunteer work may stand in the way of holding firm to that commitment. 

What I had to learn was that someone (or something) ALWAYS steps in the fill the void. My 'no' can be an opportunity for someone else to say 'yes.' 

AND...when I say 'yes' to something I don't want to do, what am I also saying 'no' to?

Excited Season 6 GIF by Parks and Recreation

As I developed my own self-leadership, I became more aware of my emotional responses and the energy it created or depleted.

My self-knowledge around my values and strengths became more clear, and I learned to accept and start changing the stories I had been hanging on to for so many years:

'Don't say no...you'll disappoint them and they'll never ask you again.' 
If I say no, I'll lose my job.' 
'If I work extra hours, they'll appreciate me more and I'll get the recognition I want.'

My confidence in who I am and what I contribute was growing, and my sense of self-worth grew as well.

All of this growth made is EASIER to set boundaries around what was important to me and if saying 'yes' was in service to who I am, what I want, and the vision I have for my life.

As leaders, we have double-duty here...setting boundaries for ourselves, AND helping our team members do the same.  

Check out this video:


3 Tips - Boundary Setting at Work

Setting boundaries can be hard. Maybe we tried it before and it didn't end well. We're exhausted and we're ready to give it another try.

Before creating new boundaries, we need to shift our mindset. Boundaries are hard to set when you aren't sure you deserve to do so. A lack of confidence in our boundaries can look like rule-setting on steroids. 

Ask my son. He's been 'grounded for life' a hundred times.

Let's use a work-related scenario as a case-study for boundary setting.

Backstory: You've been asked to take on a project that is important to your boss. It's not a huge project, but one that will be time-consuming for the next two weeks. You are already working extra hours to manage the projects that you're committed to.

What now? 

  1. Notice your initial response...but don't run with it. We've all been there. You're asked to take on more work and you're already at capacity. Your initial (and hopefully internal) response may be: 'Oh $h!t! I'm overloaded all ready. Can't you ask someone else?' 

    Well, maybe they can, but they're asking YOU. 

    Consider asking for some time. Something like: "Wow, that sounds like an important project. I'd like to take a look at my current workload and see how I can make it happen. When do you need an answer?"

  2. Get curious. What do you need to know to make a decision? The best decisions are backed up with key information and data.

    For example, how important is this project in relation to your other priorities? Can other projects transferred to others on the team to make room for this one?

  3. What's in it for you? Is there an opportunity here you may not be seeing? Again, the boss asked YOU, not someone else. 

    What strengths might you be able to leverage to make this project a complete success? How visible is this project? Does this work support your career goals?

If they need an answer NOW, ask for their help. "Got it. Then I would appreciate another set of eyes to help me prioritize my existing workload. Maybe there's something I can offload or delete all together. Can we take a look at it together?"

Another thing to remember: it doesn't have to be a hard 'yes' or 'no'...it could be something in the middle, like:

  • "I'm afraid I can't take that on, but here's what I CAN do..."
  • "Wow, I'd love to help, but the timing is bad. Can you ask me again next year?"

It's important to take the temperature of the room. If you're feeling like 'no' isn't going to work, what other options are available? Bounce ideas off of a trusted friend or colleague who can help you see things objectively and land on the best response for you.

So...what are you saying 'yes' to that means you're also saying 'no' to something else? 

Cool Resources

What I'm reading (articles, books*):

It's a surprise to NO ONE that burnout is becoming more prevalent...another reason why boundaries are so important. This interview with Arianna Huffington speaks to the importance of sleep and building resilience. A great quote from the article:

"We are currently going through a big cultural transformation as downtime, recovery time, and recharging time are increasingly recognized as part of peak performance." -- Arianna Huffington  

*I use Amazon links (no affiliate relationship); please check with your book retailer of choice


"Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries...don't leave home without them." -- Jeff Brown 

...and something more:  

Over 1.3 million viewers can't be all wrong! Clearly an important topic!

Coming up...

I'm excited to be a panelist in the PIHRA #RealHR event on September 28th. The topic: What is Driving Employees Out of Your Organization? And How To Fix It.

It's a hybrid event, so please join us!

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I look forward to connecting!

Camille McKinney
Leveraged Leaders