October 26, 2020 Jo

Learning How to Say “NO”

There’s a saying that goes “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

If you are a motivated, driven and hardworking person, you have probably been asked to carry out other people’s jobs before. People turn to you when they can’t do something because you are competent and calm. And that’s why you’re a leader.

But today I want to talk to you about your ability to say no. It’s actually quite an important leadership skill. Your job as a leader is to lead and not take on other people’s work. When someone is accountable for something but they hand over the responsibility to you, it is like they are giving you their bag. But when that happens you need to give them their bag back. As a leader, you have two jobs:  To guide people, and quality control.

Even if there are people around you, doing what they’re supposed to, you are ultimately in charge. It’s on your watch. It’s the final output – it’s your responsibility. So you do have to check in before the deadline or certain midway points. You have to spot check to make sure things are on track. I wouldn’t call it micromanagement. Whether at home or in your team or at work you need to see if there are any gaps that need filling where you can provide guidance.

Saying no will teach them how to fish

So I just had a morning were everybody gave me their bag. Everybody! One 6:30 a.m. client was late – and I had to make sure they got going and then, after that, I had to get my kids out the door and my help wasn’t really on top of it.

So I ended up being the one ultimately responsible for these things happening on time, but the only job it left me with was to communicate and say: “Now you need to put in another alarm” or “This is actually your responsibility, not mine”, including my children.

Although I check – that is ultimately the quality control.
I make sure I check in the end because I will not let people fail – sometimes I do teach them if it’s not going to have dire consequences, and that then is a teaching opportunity, but to the greatest degree you can, make sure you don’t do other people’s work.

You have to say “no” and give the bag back to them. You give it back with ideas and tips and places to look it up,
but you have them go back and do their work.

Calling it out

So let’s make a list of all the places where you are doing someone else’s job.

It doesn’t help them because they don’t get to grow and learn, and it doesn’t help you because you are now wasting your time which could have been used to develop more of your skillset and your strengths. It is also a way of hiding! Helping others often is a sure-fire way of not stepping into your leadership and no one will call you on it.

Except I do. – because they think it’s great.
You’re helping them, but you know somewhere that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to which is to guide, lead, do quality control.

That’s it. So make that list.
Feel free to send it to me. I will look at it and give you pointers if you want. But the ability to say ¨no¨, your ability to give back the responsibility to whom it belongs is a great skill to work on and polish.

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