The Power of No

One simple word that can change the trajectory of your organization, career, and well-being.

Ding. The cell phone alert interrupts Sarah’s train of thought for the tenth time in the last hour. A glance at her device reveals the message is from Noah, her Development Director. He’s asking for feedback on an upcoming fundraising campaign for an event he’s been working on. Without hesitation, Sarah responds with a thumbs-up. But seconds after hitting send, reality sets in, and Sarah is overwhelmed with regret. Already behind on her own work, helping Noah will put her deeper in the weeds and delay her work on the organization’s strategic plan.

Why We Say Yes When We Really Want to Say No

Sarah is not alone. The discomfort she feels is as common among seasoned professionals as it is for people early on in their careers. The word “no” does not come easily to us, and for good reason. Fear of missing out, disappointing others, and our own need to be needed, are just a couple of the reasons.

But the reality is that saying “no” is vital to both our success and the success of our organizations. While it may be awkward and uncomfortable initially, the ability to say no is critical for Executive Directors’ empowerment.

On Thursday, February 2, 2023 at 12 pm, SIF will host an Executive Director (ED) Circle on “The Power of No”. This session will provide  you the tools to control your default tendency to say yes, to evaluate when you need to say no, and most importantly, how to say no without burning your bridges. 

Why Leaders Need to Get Skilled at Saying No

We seldom stop to consider that when we say yes to one thing, we’re saying no to something else. So, whether it’s canceling that long weekend trip we’ve been looking forward to or doing deep work on a high-value strategic project, something is sacrificed. Usually, the deep, important work that truly moves the organization forward gets sacrificed to the crisis of the day. 

There is a limit to our bandwidth, and most of us overestimate it. That’s because we underestimate how long it will take to complete tasks. This is known as the planning fallacy— a cognitive bias that leads us to consistently underestimate timelines, despite knowing that similar tasks have taken longer in the past. As a result, we continue to add things to our plates without subtracting. This feeds burnout and ultimately, impacts the quality of our work.  

Join us on Thursday, February 2nd and master the skill of knowing when and how to say no. Once learned, you will gain the power to sustain your wellbeing and effectiveness over time and stay focused on what matters most to you. To attend this ED circle, which is open to Executive Directors within SIF’s nonprofit network only, contact Jameelah Julien at To receive  one-on-one coaching with this skill, contact Kimberly Paterson

About the Author: 

Kimberly Paterson is an Executive Leadership Coach who works with leaders to increase their positive impact by mastering the behaviors that produce positive outcomes and reducing the behaviors that undermine effectiveness. She is also  the founder of CIM, a strategic marketing and communications firm in the US specializing in the financial services sector. She is a columnist, speaker, and trainer on the topics of high-impact leadership and behavioral change. 

Interested in working with Kimberly or bringing her to your organization? 

Email her at Visit her website: