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No we can’t


Oh yes doctor, we would like to have you present at our conference. In fact we would like you to run a three hour workshop and do a plenary. And sorry no we don’t pay speakers. We offer budget travel and basic accommodation.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The preparation for this would take weeks. According to the glossy brochure the conference was to be held at an expensive venue overseas and the delegates would be paying handsomely to attend. The young man who called me couldn’t see anything wrong with asking me to work on his business at the expense of my employer in order to make a profit for his company. My response as far as he was concerned was unexpected. Which means he was probably used to hearing:


Academics give it away for a plane ticket and a cheap hotel room. They are just so pleased to be noticed.

The word for 2016 has to be:


  • No to urgent and not important
  • No to someone else’s priorities
  • No to time wasters
  • No to projects that don’t serve the mission
  • No to lack of self respect

If you are being asked, as you will be daily, to give up your time and pay an opportunity cost to be distracted then your boss has the right to ask difficult questions at your annual appraisal.

  • What did you accomplish today?
  • How does this work towards the mission of your team?
  • What tangible can you show when you reflect on progress this week?

Learn to say


Here are some different ways to say it. Practice today. Say it politely but say it emphatically.

No, Nein (German), Non ( French), Hapana (Swahili), Naheen ( Hindi).

If you practice it judiciously then you are less likely to hear it said to you.

Picture by Michael Sissons