Saying "no" is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. And to do so effectively without hampering your company's prospects and professional relationships is arguably one of the best skills you can develop as a founder/leader at your company.

In this post, we will explore ways you can manage requests as a founder effectively. So let's jump in.

Know when to give an absolute "yes"

There are certain opportunities that you absolutely have to take both as an individual and as an organization. Knowing when to say yes can help you navigate requests more tactfully. Here is what an "absolute yes" proposition should entail:

  • Help set a clear strategic pathway for your professional growth.
  • Help unblock a lot of blocked resources in your organization.
  • High rate of professional or business success along with a significant upside.
  • Explicitly mentioned as part of your job description.

Questions to answer before saying "yes"

Here are some questions you need to answer before saying yes to something.

Is this really for me to do?

If the request from you could be fulfilled by someone better or if it is more feasible to get help for it, then there is no point in you not leveraging delegation or assistance.

If you are not the right person to do it, say "no."

What does completing this task do for you and the organization?

Once completed, the task should be a net positive for yourself and/or your organization.

You could even go as far as ensuring that it is a significant positive. Ultimately, the opportunity cost of missing the task must be so high that you have to pursue it.

How much time will this take?

It would help if you honestly calculated the time needed without letting external distractions affect your assessment.

If it takes too long and you have reason to believe that it might be extended without additional value, then it is best to avoid the request.

What does your current pipeline look like?

If your plate already looks full with critical tasks that will move the needle for your organization and you, then it is best to pass on the request.

Setting priorities right, assessing your workload, and knowing when to stop is critical to ensuring that you don't get overwhelmed and your quality doesn't take a hit.

The best hack to manage requests

This is something that I learned a few years back when I used to constantly feel and be overwhelmed with tasks and requests coming my way.

With the explicit goal of trying to be productive all the time, I took on more than I could chew and always kept myself open for requests (some good but most not good enough).

I then reached out to the most productive person I knew, who gave me two pieces of advice.

  1. Default to "no."
  2. Don't be a bottleneck.

Let me illustrate with examples:

In 2015, I used to get, on average, 4-5 requests a day and would usually accept 80% of them. A request had to be far-fetched and out of scope for me to refuse it.

So based on this person's advice, I defaulted to "no," and a request had to appeal enough for me to say "yes"; otherwise, it was a straight "no."

As for advice number two, I decided I won't be a bottleneck for others in my organization. If there is a necessary process where I am the bottleneck, I resolve it on priority.

The last thing an organization needs is a blocked pipe, and if you feel that you should not be in that position, you may want to consider reducing or replacing your requirement.

And that's about it. The next time someone at work makes a request, put that through the process, and your productivity should improve by leaps and bounds.

Thanks for reading.