How often do you find yourself nodding cheerfully and agreeing to do something which, only minutes later, will have you gently banging your skull against your desk, muttering…why? WHY did I say yes to that? Like… Agree to take minutes for every weekly meeting for the next 6 months? Join your office’s charity fundraiser committee? Take the visiting colleagues from the New York office to dinner (when drinks would have sufficed)?

say yes

Why say YES when you really want to say NO?

Some of the most energetic and ambitious leaders I coach can spend an entire coaching session lamenting how challenged they are to say no. To all sorts of stuff. If you are in a leadership position you have a responsibility to examine what toll saying YES to too much will exact on you time, energy, wits, relationships, life.  It’s sobering stuff.  With some coaching and increased self-awareness you will soon see how saying yes when you really mean no (as in: the heart and gut are yelling NO) has the potential to keep you from focusing on what’s most important. Not to mention exhaust your body and mind and, in many cases, your team and their goodwill. Sometimes your inability to say NO will have a subtle but motivation-eroding knock-on effect, as others buckle under the weight of all you pile on, not just for yourself but for the collective.
Read: Boundaries in Business – Who Needs Them – You DO!

It’s a biological truth: saying yes to absolutely everything will send your stress levels soaring. This is why great leaders know how to differentiate between what they really want to say yes to, and whether they’re saying yes when it’s really a no.

Set boundaries and say no when you need to.

Read: Running multiple jobs without burnout

With greater leadership responsibility come greater avalanches of demands on you, making it crucial—for your life balance and mental health (yes, they’re linked)—to differentiate between what is urgent, really important, not so critical, or downright unimportant. And to say YES to the things you want to prioritise, you will need to say no to other stuff. This includes projects, people, meetings, parties! In our personal or professional life, we must be aware of our needs and limits and refuse–serenely and politely–to take on extra responsibilities even if we know we could do them.
Read: Boomer Work Ethic: Hard Graft Or Just Long Hours?

And finally, taking on more than you can handle will, inevitably, create internal resentment for having said YES when you meant NO. Not only will you kick yourself for taking on too much, you may end up broadcasting those put-upon-vibes, giving people around you (colleagues, friends, family) the feeling the world owes you. Unattractive, unhelpful and, at the end of the day, a sure way to dilute your leadership.

Have you been there? Does any of this sound like you?

Sometimes all it takes are a few questions from a coach who will support you in being true to yourself, and getting into the habit of saying YES only when you mean it.


Are you in Brussels tomorrow the 14th March 17.30-20.30? Then join Gilly Weinstein and Sofie-Ann Bracke for a 3Plus Workshop – Stepping into your Leader shoes

One of the topics is being clear about our YES’s and our NO’s and why it’s an important leadership skill, participant will be examining what gets in the way of their saying NO!



Gilly Weinstein

About Gilly Weinstein

Gilly is an executive coach supporting international executives and multicultural teams on both sides of the Atlantic. Known for her fierce yet heart-filled coaching style, Gilly helps individuals tap into their strengths, become more emotionally intelligent leaders, and make decisions that empower them—and ultimately their organisations. A recognised super-connector and entrepreneur, Gilly founded and ran a Brussels-based communications consultancy, before certifying as a coach. Today her international coaching practice caters to a range of clients in both private and public sectors such as: Air France-KLM, Amnesty International, APCO,, Bain & Company, Baxter Healthcare, Caritas, Disney Corporation, ELLE, The European Commission, Council, and Parliament, Fis-Global, HEC Paris, ICF International (Mostra), INSEAD, Novartis, New York Public Radio, Pictet, SalesForce.Com, Swift, Tetra-Pak, and Unilever. Gilly facilitates board and leadership team meetings and retreats, designs and runs leadership development workshops in several countries and mentors less seasoned coaches in both French and English. A regular contributor to the Forum ELLE-Active in Paris and other private, industry events, Gilly is a committed member of the International Coaching Federation.