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How effectively does your organization say “no” to work that is “off strategy?”


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How effectively does your organization say “no” to work that is “off strategy?”

  • Very: if it’s not on strategy, we don’t do it. Ever: 8%
  • Mostly: we say “no” to most distractions but not all: 33%
  • Kind of: a fair number of distractions get worked on: 22%
  • Not very: we find it difficult to say “no” to many things: 31%
  • Not at all: we work on every idea that comes our way: 7%

Focus is challenging. 60% of you report challenges with focus resulting in a fair number of distractions getting your time and energy. The most powerful word you need to learn is “no” if you want to keep things on track. A great technique for saying no to distractions is to highlight the opportunity cost of working on that project or task. When people see that a higher priority item won’t get worked on, they tend to be more receptive to not working on a task. In isolation, every task is important. It’s only when you compare it to more important work that people can see it’s a distraction from achieving your critical objectives.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”