8 Simple Questions for Discerning When to Say “No”

May 6, 2013 — Leave A Comment

no

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” ~John D. Rockefeller

 

What do these have in common?

Overwhelm
Burn out
Fuzzy goals
Scope creep

In my work with leaders and their teams, I find these are all symptoms of the same root issue:

 

  • The leader and/or team lacks the willingness to say “No.”
  • The leader and team lacks any clear process for discerning when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to current or potential projects.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution.

Notice I didn’t say it was an easy solution. It’s not. It takes a kind of ruthless courage to make decisions using the solution I’ll suggest, and the willingness to disappoint people championing a particular project or initiative. But in the long run, following this simple process will multiply your organization’s real-world impact far more quickly than trying to do and be all things to everybody. Plus, it will do wonders for reducing overwhelm, burn out, scope creep, and the perpetual drain of having fuzzy goals.

Here it is: 8 Simple Questions.

When considering a potential new project or initiative, OR when reviewing the projects currently on your organization’s calendar, process through these questions with your leadership team…

1. Does it directly move us toward accomplishing our Mission (or Noble Cause)?

If so, how does it do this exactly? How will we measure its effectiveness?

2. Is this the best use of our time and energy toward accomplishing our Mission?

Is this a great idea, or merely a good one? Why this, and not something else? Is there a more effective or powerful way for us to accomplish our Mission than this?

3. Is it in alignment with our ultimate Vision for the organization?

In other words, as we envision what “full achievement of the Mission” would look like for our organization, does this project clearly move us toward the realization of that vision?

4. Is it in alignment with our Core Values?

Are any of our values at risk of being compromised if we take this on? If so, is it worth the risk? Can we effectively mitigate that risk? If so, how?

5. Does it align with Scripture?

Are there any biblical principles or teachings that strongly support this idea? Are there any biblical principles or teachings that run counter to this idea? Is there a specific biblical passage or narrative that speaks to this idea?

6. Is it wise?

Does it align with the principles of wisdom as revealed in Scripture? What about timing ~ Is it wise to take this on right now, or would waiting for another time be more prudent, or increase the chances of success? Do we currently have adequate resources (time, energy, money, passion) to cover all the costs this would incur? If not, what will we have to stop doing or say “no” to in order to say “yes” to this? How will we ensure all costs are covered?

7. Do we sense the full endorsement of God’s Spirit on this project?

What is Christ saying to you about this? Is this idea consistent with the overall direction God has been leading you? Is this project consistent with who Jesus is and his redemptive purposes in the world?

8. Are we fully surrendered to God’s will on this matter?

Are we willing to follow God’s lead in this, regardless of what his leading is? Do you have any undue attachments toward any particular outcome around this? Can you say with clear conscience, “I want God’s will in this matter ~ nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else”? If not, what do you need to lay down or let go of in order to fully surrender your will to God around this?

If you can get through all 8 questions without encountering a solid “No,” then feel free to green light the project. But if you get a “No” for any of these questions, say “No” to the project ~ and keep saying “No,” until you find a way to answer “yes” to all these questions.

(By the way: Do you see how vital it is for an organization to have a crystal clear Mission, Vision, and an authentic understanding of its Core Values? If yours are less than clear, or in need of updating, I can help. Just contact me, and we’ll set up a time to talk.)

What do you think of this process? Any other questions you would add to help leaders discern when to say no?

Michael Warden

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2 responses to 8 Simple Questions for Discerning When to Say “No”

  1. Great article, Mike. I especially appreciate how you point out the willingness piece. That seems to get to the core of it. Also, I would add healthy communal agreement to the piece on God’s Spirit/Listening Prayer for confirmation.

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