QUO VADIS (Where are you going?)

Fields of wheat chest-high rolled like waves as the wind blew across the base of the ancient Roman Aqueduct. As I headed in a taxi to my first job interview since moving to Rome from New York weeks earlier, the stark contrast between the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the grazing sheep of the Italian countryside made me ask myself, “Where am I going!”

Literally, I was going to American Express, located on the outskirts of the Eternal City. The company was seeking a Product Manager for its Gold card, and I had excellent qualifications. In a matter of three hours, I bounced from the Marketing Manager to the Sales Manager, and finally to the General Manager’s office.

Despite the senior executive’s prominent reputation in the Italian marketplace and my relative youth, I didn’t hesitate to engage in the colloquy. Ten minutes into our exchange the GM realized that he had lost control of the conversation. Abruptly he said, “Dottoressa Katselianos, who’s leading this interview ? you or me”

Staring at him point blank I said, “Accepting employment is like a marriage. Don’t you think it’s best we get to know each other before we decide whether or not to say, I do”

Despite all the benefits and the prestige associated with working for American Express, I declined to say I do to the General Manager’s job offer, even when he offered to sweeten the deal with a more substantial salary. Instead, I joined British Airways. My experience there led me to think that I should be payingthemfor the opportunity, travel and fun!

In reality, I knewexactlywhere I was going all along. Why

Because prior to entering the playing field, I was very clear about my “musts” and my “wants.” I had developed a list of criteria in advance so I wouldn’t be dazzled by shiny “wants” (e.g., working for a company with a distinguished global brand) that blinded me and caused me to overlook the critical “musts.

In this case, my non-negotiables were a salary that enabled me to live comfortably, the ability to reunite with my family in New York at least once or twice a year, and work that allowed my soul to sing.

How many times have you taken on a client, or accepted a job, or made a decision in your personal life because you allowed the bright shiny object of “want” to overshadow the more mundane “musts”

Being very clear and distinguishing between “musts” and “wants” is the key to answering this fundamental Latin question:

Quo Vadis

I know. You should too.

Having The Courage To Say “No”

Following a major reorganization, a Fortune 500 company recruited new talent to replace the incumbents in key leadership roles. The Managing Director asked me to meet with him to discuss the possibility of helping him refocus the Executive team on achieving execution excellence.

Prior to the meeting, I established my ABC criteria for accepting the proposed engagement i.e., I must believe that:

  • I have the Appropriate skills and expertiseto dramatically improve the client’s condition.

  • I would be able to Build a trusting relationshipwith the person who made the decisions.

  • We could agree to Compensation commensurate with the agreed-upon value I would deliver.

During the meeting, it became clear that I had the appropriate skills and expertise for this project. Yet red flags began to fly when the Managing Director insisted on telling me how to do my job. If he was the expert on execution excellence, I thought, why does he need me I noticed he also seemed to be very resistant to change, especially when it required him to do things differently.

Soon I realized that I would not be able to build a trusting relationship with this individual. Furthermore, it became apparent that he was not the decision-maker, as he had to ask someone else for permission to obtain or spend the money for this project. Finally, because his budget was insufficient for what he was asking me to do, I would not receive equitable compensation for my value.

Because I had established clear criteria about the people I work with and none of them would be met if I accepted this project, I realized I had to decline to take it on.

What prevents me from taking on a client who I don’t believe I can help, for whatever reason, is a concept called integrity.Integrity is non-negotiable. It encompasses your reputation, your brand, who you are. As a result, it is your integrity that gives you the courage to say no to situations that would violate this important value.

Next time you receive a business offer that challenges your integrity and values don’t hesitate to say, “No. Thank you.”

It’s the only way you can concentrate on where youcanmake a difference.If you need a trusted advisor to help you manage the personal and professional dynamics of saying no, contact me.


If you could ask a question about what’s holding you back from catapulting your life forward, what would it be? To ask yours, click on the link below.

Q. When is it smart to refuse business? And what’s the best way of delivering the news?

A. For starters, forgo business when your product, service or expertise isn’t appropriate. The reason is that the real potential in business comes not from the single transaction, but from lifelong relationships with satisfied clients who come back for repeat business and are ongoing referral sources.

Unless you are engaging in a hobby rather than running a business, refuse work that is not profitable or pays so little that you would regret taking it. Also, you might consider giving the thumbs down to business when it is of no interest – i.e., you don’t grow or learn anything.

Decline work when you don’t like the prospective client or the organization, or when a value system is not aligned with your own. And pass up business that involves too many hardships in terms of travel, time away from home, or life balance.

When one or more of the above factors prevail, refuse the work.Promptly communicate your decision in writing hard copy, not email following these guidelines:

  • Be brief, polite, and professional. At most, a couple of paragraphs will do. Start by expressing appreciation. Thank you for your invitation to submit a proposal.

  • Put the onus on yourself.Regrettably, in reviewing our talks, I’ve concluded that I’m not the right consultant (partner/distributor/ provider etc.) for you…

  • Don’t blame the client or conditions.My talents don’t perfectly match your needs, and I’m presently unable to take on the extra travel to meet your objectives. For these reasons, I must respectfully decline

  • Leave the door open to other opportunities.With your permission, I’ll keep you on my mailing lists and maintain contact periodically….

Respect others while being true to yourself. If/when circumstances change, align or are right–you can seal the deal.

Send me your questions. Although I can’t promise to reply to each one individually, you may see yours featured here in an upcoming issue!


The Jewel of Execution Excellence

Even the bravest and successful can struggle with fluctuating self-esteem.Now you can regain edge, when yours takes a drop! Read the full article to discover 3 secrets for boosting self-esteem.

If you find this newsletter helpful, and have a friend or colleague who you think might also enjoy it, please forward it.We welcome new subscribers!Sign up for a monthly subscription by clicking here.

You can’t help those who don’t want to be helped.

Angie Katselianos

One of my biggest takeaways is around discovering my own values and understanding how important it is for a romantic partner to support my four core values. Previously, I wouldn’t have known how to defend the ways in which I spend my time, but understanding that those four pillars are non-negotiable components of me gives me the leverage I need to put my foot down in situations where I haven’t been strong enough to in the past. Thank you, Angie! I will cherish our interactions for the rest of my life.”


Ajay Goel

Founder, Silicomm Corporation





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