01/22/2013 12:50 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2013

Leadership and Management Secrets: The Most Powerful Word in Business

Self-help gurus and televangelists worldwide will tell you that "Yes" is an empowering word, and indeed it is. "Yes" opens doors, breaks down barriers and gets people to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things that help open their hearts and minds to new philosophies and perspectives. But "No" is a powerful word, as well, and one that we all need to employ more in both our personal and professional lives. "No" doesn't even have to be such a door-closing, brick wall of a word. It can simply mean, "No--for now." Here are a few reasons should you get to know it better.

Time is our most valuable asset. It can't be bought, sold, or replaced. Therefore, we need to make sure that we're always choosing the right opportunities that drive us toward our ultimate objective, and make sure to keep in mind the strategic methods that further our progress in getting there. Every choice we make should bring us closer to our end goals. Most of us jump at a chance for a paycheck, which is fine and respectable, especially if you've got a family to feed. But if we focus solely on financial benefits and give up all of our precious time to someone else's projects, from a long-term perspective, we risk spinning our wheels.

Weigh choices carefully before saying yes. Before taking on an opportunity, you should ask yourself, "Does this project further my personal objectives? What will I learn? Will it be time well-spent? Will taking on this project alienate another client of mine? Will I create a positive bond or connection with my employer, or will I wind up selling my time to a person I'll never see again?" Ask yourself hard questions -- the answers may help you reveal hidden opportunity costs or see the project from new viewpoints that make the decision to accept or reject it clearer.

Think in terms of long-term investments. Say "No" to short-term opportunities that may not help propel you down the path to reaching your ultimate goals in life. Said jobs and projects typically lead to the employer's end benefit, something you probably won't benefit from once the last paycheck has been handed out. It often takes training, discipline and iron will to turn down opportunities -- but once you get in the habit, you'll find short-term losses comes at considerable long-term gains.

See? Once you've weighed the risks and positives of taking on a project, "No" doesn't seem like such a dirty word after all. A few sample questions to ask yourself when weighing opportunities going forward:

• Does the opportunity further my ultimate objective(s)? How so? Are there alternate or better vehicles for doing so -- and is there a simpler or more direct route?
• Do I accelerate my speed of progress with regard to accomplishing preferred tasks, goals, products or projects by taking this opportunity on--to what extent?
• Can I learn from this, or leverage existing talents in new ways, or could I do this in my sleep? Does it convey new skills, opportunities or experience?
• Will participating in the opportunity grow my contacts, connections or personal network?
• Does the amount paid do more than simply cover the cost for my time? Beyond pure financial incentives, what value will be gained from the exchange?
• Will it provide an opportunity to showcase my talents? To whom and to what extent?
• Is promotional visibility provided, and if so, how much? How well does the proposed audience for the project match the ones I'm ultimately trying to reach?
• Will others underwrite the expense? To what degree? Is this an opportunity I could achieve on my own--how difficult would it be to do so, what would it cost, and how much time would it take? Am I getting any discounts or bargains with regard to pursuing it in this instance?
• What benefits are achieved by taking part in the exchange? How does participation help me further my goals and/or build leverage?
• At what expense will the opportunity come (e.g. will I alienate someone, lose other immediate opportunity, etc.)?