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[dropcap style=”style3″]I[/dropcap]n your daily practice of leadership do you ever feel like a “human milkshake” with everyone in your sphere of influence becoming a “straw”? Literally, sucking the life and energy out of you. Those voices around you insisting that you should listen to them and do it their way or help them out.

Let’s be honest, I am sure you know what I mean. Too may things to do for so many people vying for your time and expertise. You hardly have time because you’re being too accommodating. At the end of the day you look at your “to-do” list and it has actually grown in magnitude. Are you trying to please too may people? Then I have a leadership story for you. Please read on…

The Old Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

An old man, a boy, and donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked beside him. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people who remarked, “What a shame! He makes the little boy walk.” They then decided they both would walk.

Soon they passed some more people who shamed them again, “How stupid to walk when they have a decent donkey to ride.” So they both rode the donkey.

Later, they passed some people who shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and the man said the onlookers were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost the grip on the animal, and it fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story? If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass goodbye.

When it comes to Leadership – You can’t please them all

Leadership requires that you learn that you can’t please everyone. Learn to embrace and use the word “NO.” Just make sure it’s not your supervisor. Then again, maybe even your supervisor. They may not know how much work they have already assigned to you. Sound leadership behavior may require you to regularly negotiate your “to-do” list with your supervisor. In addition, remember to set boundaries to protect your coveted time from peers and reports. “The ability to say no is an increasingly rare and valuable skill” according to Carl Richards, The New York Times.

Five effective ways for saying no

Here is a “No” repertoire for your consideration:

  • I am flattered that you thought of me but I’m afraid I don’t have the bandwith
  • I would very much like to but I’m over-committed
  • I am going to pass on this today
  • Let me check my calendar and get back to you
  • If it’s your boss — politely say, “Yes. What should I de-prioritize?”

So, if you are still in doubt of saying “NO”, remember the story of the old man, the boy and the donkey and the undesirable consequence. Then consider putting a smile on your face because you are now taking back control of your time by saying no. Leadership is understanding that you will never please everyone.

Thank you for reading,


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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734