5 Things Highly Successful Managers Say ‘No’ to Every Time

woman working on laptop


Profile Picture
Megan Leasher916
talent strategist + bourbon lover
May 20, 2024 at 3:57AM UTC

When we think of successful managers from our past, we reminisce on our fondest memories of how they helped us, made us stronger, more confident and did everything possible to unleash our potential.  

But what about those times when they put us in our place? When they called us out and we felt wretched in the moment, but eventually realized they were right? 

As we think of successful managers, we should also reflect on are all of things they said “no” to. 

Great managers know their boundaries and reinforce them. Boundaries limit us, instill guidance and meaningful redirection when we might have stumbled off a solid path. Let’s start a powerful bandwagon of celebrating when managers told us “no”. Here are five things highly successful managers say “no” to every time.  

1. Solving your problem for you.  

Work feels like a nonstop onslaught of problem-solving. We are challenged with tackling problems big and small, foreign and familiar, interpersonal and task-related. Each and every time we solve a problem by ourselves we build more confidence. We expand our expertise to turn unfamiliar problems into familiar solutions. We instill the ability to teach others and impart what we’ve learned. 

Highly successful managers know these things and won’t solve your problem for you because they want you to solve it for yourself. Brilliant, right?  They use coaching questions to help you discover your own solution. They help you take responsibility for your own problem solving and, subsequently, your own growth.  

2. Continual “cranky pants.”  

Venting is a healthy release at times. It prevents us from bottling up all of the negativity we take in regularly and helps us declare when we’ve been wronged. 

Express your frustration, get it righted, then turn off your sourness. It’s the last step we sometimes forget. When momentary venting turns into continual cranky pants, you need to check your attitude at the door.  A great manager will callout your negative attitude and will make it clear it won’t be tolerated.  

A highly successful manager knows that a perpetually negative attitude will cloud your decision-making abilities, crush your work motivation, and make you horribly unattractive to work with. Positivity goes a long way; it makes you look, feel, and be better in your job.

3. Being dragged into your procrastination. 

The deadline we were dreading looms near. The deadline we forgot leaps out and attacks us. We’ve all had moments where we found ourselves in crisis mode, franticly racing to accomplish something that should have been done ages ago. 

A great manager will not get pulled down your panicked, procrastination rabbit hole. As Bob Carter once said, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” Highly successful managers will uphold a boundary here and ensure you take the lead in reconciling the matter.  

It doesn’t mean your manager will abandon you; it means that you will be the one required to hustle while your manager ensures you don’t put the team in bind.  Make sure to thank your manager for any support provided in a procrastination emergency you create.

4. Addiction to legacy practices. 

We all get comfortable with routines in our job. But greatness never comes from maintenance. In order to thrive, we must let go of long-standing, legacy practices and embrace new ways of approaching work.  

Great leaders have no interest in preserving the status quo and won’t enable an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset. A great leader always wants more. Coming to your leader with a desire to hold onto “the way we’ve always done something” may provide momentary comfort by minimizing risk, but it also blocks the chance for greatness. Greatness for you, and greatness for the organization.  

A great leader won’t let you resist change by wrapping yourself in the fuzzy-comfort blanket of legacy practices; a great leader will shine a spotlight of accountability on all team members to continually transform the organization, one new idea at a time.

5. Allowing your phone to dominate. 

Our phones can be super handy in work settings.  We can pull up our calendars, reference an email, and text to check on someone who may be running late. These are all functional; it’s where function meets dysfunction that a great manager steps in. 

When you allow distraction to take over and permit your phone to be the lead actor in the conversation, you are neither present nor connecting with your manager. A great manager demands your focus. A great manager wants to make the best use of time for your relationship and your personal productivity.  It’s the high standards of a great manager that makes you realize that you want to put your phone down. Praise a manager who wants your full attention and takes the time to find the best ways to help you focus.

What’s the best “no” you’ve received from a successful manager?  Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!


This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.

Megan Leasher is the Chief Solutions Strategist for Talent Plus, a global HR-solutions firm whose mission is to leverage science to help people and organizations discover and develop talent, creating a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy.  A member of the Forbes HR Council, Megan has been named as one of HR’s Rising Stars by Human Resource Executive Magazine and The 10 Most Influential Leaders in HR by Insights Success Magazine.  Megan lives in northern Kentucky, where she loves coffee, bourbon, and Converse Chuck Taylors. Click here to follow Megan on LinkedIn.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always