There's a school of thought that preaches saying yes to every opportunity in business. The Wayne Gretzky quote, "you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," is plastered around the web, encouraging to entrepreneurs and businesspeople to take chances.
The quote gets misinterpreted too often. It's saying for you to not be afraid to go after something you really want. Not to say yes to every opportunity that's put in front of you.
The word, "yes" is something holding back entrepreneurs. You feel like it's your responsibility to say yes, putting yourself in front of every opportunity and situation your business encounters.
The truth is saying yes is easy -- especially if you think you want to please everyone. However, I'd argue that if you want to please everyone, then shut down your business and sell ice-cream.
If you want to be a better leader you need to learn to say no.
And say it often.
Let me explain.
1. It can be used to put trust in your team.
Are you one of those CEOs who has her/his team informing you and coming to you before any decision is made? If so, you're not saying no enough. Two things you need to say no to immediately are: (i) being on long email chains where your judgment isn't needed and (ii) having to review every piece of work coming out of your company.
Could you imagine Elon Musk approving every Tesla that comes out of production or Richard Branson trying to fly every Virgin flight? Of course not. That'd be them micromanaging to the point of absurdity.
Instead, what these great entrepreneurs have done is said no to micromanaging and they've decided to empower the managers they have around them. By not being involved in every decision they are systematically putting trust into their team members.
2. Saying no frees up your time.
You need to say no more often to those who are after your time. You shouldn't have your notifications on your phone on all day or your email tab open all day. This is inviting interruption.
And interruption is the enemy of productivity.
Getting meaningful tasks done requires meaningful attention towards those tasks. To do this, time-block parts of your day where you put your phone into airplane mode and get to work.
3. It lets you make better decisions
If you said yes to every suggestion someone on your team put forward or every time someone wanted a raise you'd be a highly ineffective leader.
Your job isn't to say yes or no to everything, it's to hear everything then make a decision for yourself. People want to follow someone who listens but also is able to make clear decisions based on the information available.
No isn't an evil word. It's actually the opposite. By saying no to the small things, decisions your team is equipped to handle and to other people trying to prioritize their time over yours, you are on the way to enabling more growth for your own business.