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Say yes to everything? You should seriously stop.

Why we need to thank people for saying NO as well as YES

At certain times in your career, saying yes can be advantageous.  It can expose you to new experience, open new doors. But saying yes to everything can also be hugely disadvantageous.

Too many people I work with find themselves saying yes to things that mean that they become unfocused, overwhelmed, unproductive and resentful. So often the culture of many work places means that it is a given that you will take on too much and that those who protect their boundaries and say no to certain tasks or undertakings, are seen as negative and unreliable.  More generally, British society expects us to say yes if we want to be liked and saying no risks offending and upsetting. 

Do you find yourself saying yes to taking on extra work or helping others out with their work when you really want to say no?

It’s not easy saying no.  There are a host of reasons why we struggle.

You might not like to let people down.

You might like to please or impress people.

Your line manager or boss may be difficult to say no to.

You may worry about who is going to do the work if you don’t – your colleagues or team are already overworked.

Saying no to clients, even if it’s extra work or unreasonable, can risk upsetting them.

Sometimes it’s easier to say yes and do the work than say no and delegate.

Saying no feels like a rejection to many and none of us like to feel rejected. 

I’m clearly not suggesting you say no to everything.  So how will you know if saying no is appropriate?

  • Consider your role and the responsibilities you have.  Yes, sometimes you need to do things outside of this, as there needs to be some goodwill. However, if you find that you are frequently working outside of your job role and trying to do your job too, you will become overwhelmed.  You will not be able to successful achieve what you need to.  You will probably become pretty distracted and not be able to.
  • Ask yourself if doing this will move you closer to achieving your goals.
  • Ask yourself why you are saying yes. Are you doing it because it will move your work on, contribute to the general aim, add value and because no-one else can, or are you doing it because you feel bad about letting people down, or think it’s quicker for you to do it than someone else and the work will be better?
  • Ask why you can’t say no. Are you concerned about upsetting or disappointing the person asking? Are you worried about their reaction if you say no? Do you think it will be quicker to just say yes and do it than face the potential negative atmosphere if you say no?
  • Are you just saying yes because that’s what you do and it has become a habit and you are seen as the person who never turns anything down?
  • Instead of asking yourself “can I do this?”, ask yourself “should I do this?”
  • Are you saying yes because it’s within your comfort zone and feels easier to do than some of the things you perhaps should be doing in your position?
  • Are you doing this because you always take the role of rescuer? If so, consider the impact of this on you and others.

The benefits to saying no?

Again, I am not suggesting you become someone who says no to everything.  There has to be a balance. Once you challenge yourself to say no to certain requests, you will start noticing the benefits.

  • Many people will respect your ability to say no and will appreciate the fact that you are setting an example, especially in a workplace where saying no is not encouraged.
  • You will find you have more time to do the things that you are meant to be doing eg more strategic planning if you are in a senior position.
  • Your team will thank you as you delegate more, demonstrating trust in their abilities and helping them develop professionally.
  • You will feel more in control, less put upon and clearer about what you really should be doing.
  • You will become more confident in your role and see yourself develop professionally.

Is there another way of saying no?

Not many people enjoy saying or hearing the word no.  So are there other ways of saying it?

If you’re being asked to take on an extra project at work which you know you realistically don’t have time to do or that really someone else should be doing it, try explaining why.  Words like “I’m not able to do that now because I already am feeling stretched and worry I won’t be able to do the work to a sufficiently high standard” or if you do have some capacity but not enough, you could say that you won’t be able to do the whole project, but that you are able to take on some aspects. 

If a client is asking for a meeting this week when you already have one scheduled for the following week (let’s face it, some people love meetings) and you know that time would be better spent working on the project, it is ok to say something like “I really want to focus on getting the work right, would you be happy for me to bring this to our meeting next week?”.  So you’re not hitting anyone with the no word, but you are being clear to them about your boundaries and what you can and can’t do.

If you are a people pleaser, it will be a big change for you and may take a fair amount of effort to start reducing your use of the word yes. It can help to set yourself goals and take it step by step.  For example, decide that when someone asks you to do something, take a few moments to consider whether this is an opportunity to practise saying no.  This may be all you can do for a few times.  Next would be to set yourself a rule around saying no,  There may be someone in particular who often makes you feel overwhelmed.  You could try pushing back with them and see how it feels.  

Slowly you will start feeling pretty liberated!

I challenge you to give it a go and start noticing the difference.

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What’s really going on for them?

Finding out what’s behind the words

We make so many assumptions when it comes to communicating with others.  We have to, as we generally don’t have time to read between the lines.  This leads to snap decisions and judgements.  Much of the time, this is OK and no harm is done.  However, if we make a snap decision that someone doesn’t like us, or is moody or ungrateful , or whatever… it is very unlikely that we will change our minds on this.

On good days. we might give people the benefit of the doubt and won’t come to such a decision, but at stressful times (like Christmas!), we are so much more likely to jump to conclusions and misinterpret the words and behaviour of others, making assumptions quickly that may be detrimental to relationships (and our enjoyment).

Stressful situations don’t help….

Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us and if time is against us, we are loathe to find out what’s really going on for others. Too often, misunderstandings happen and nobody stops to find out the reasons behind a person’s behaviour. If someone is behaving badly, this is all that we see.  This is the story that we have about them. It happens far too often in the workplace. Someone might be behaving badly – their attitude, time keeping, performance etc and this might get as far as a disciplinary or actually being asked to leave. In some cases, fortunately, someone sits down and asks them what’s going on, only to find out that they’re experiencing some difficult circumstances at home that are causing them to behave like this.  Once support is offered and put in place, the behaviour changes.

Taking people at face value means that we only get to know a tiny part of them.  Have a look at the cartoon below and consider what’s going on.

coaching people

Two people are speaking to each other.  If they are moderately good listeners, they will hear what the other is saying.  Each will interpret the words in their own way (usually according to their own personal way of interpreting the world – see this article on “we see the world as we are not as it is”).  What they don’t hear is what is behind the other person’s words (illustrated in the large orange bubbles).  All their experience, thought processes, their own interpretation of the world and events, what happened to them that morning, what’s going on in their family, what drives them, what they value etc). If we can access this information, or just a small part of it, we would have a better understanding of what the other person is saying and would be in a better position to make fewer assumptions.

So what can we do?

  • Firstly, notice that you’re making assumptions about the other person. What effect is this having on your relationship?
  • Take a step back and consider what might be going on for them – here it’s difficult not to make assumptions, but imagine you are an innocent bystander, watching the conversation. Picture the cartoon and remember we only see a fraction of what is really going on.
  • Ask them some open questions to find out what’s behind the words.  Let go of your judgement (this can be easier said than done!).

Hopefully you will gain some insight into what is behind their words. At the very least, this new perspective will help you understand them a bit better and you might feel a better connection as you learn more about them and they see that you are genuinely interested.

This is a strategy that works well for many of the people I coach. It is definitely worth giving a go and I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Delegation – what gets in the way

What is it about delegation?

 


Delegation has so many benefits and is a vital part of effective working, so why do we have such trouble doing it?

I guess as humans we generally don’t like change. As your role or business changes, are you slow to adapt what you do? If your business has grown or you have been promoted, your role will become more strategic. You will be looking at planning for the future and working out how you will get there, as opposed to dealing with the day to day. But if you’re entrenched in the day to day, you will have little opportunity to stop and consider the future. The busier you get dealing with managing others and doing the day to day, the more difficult it will become to clearly set your direction. Work life balance goes out the window and it’s likely stress levels will mount. This is not the only disadvantage with failing to delegate. You might find it difficult to focus and productivity could fall.

Few people would think that this is a good way to work, so why do so many of us do it?

Why do we fail to delegate?

From coaching business leaders and senior people in organisations, the root of so many challenges is failure to delegate. But why don’t we delegate when the benefits are so clear?

Guilt

About asking others to do the things you are no longer doing. You want to be seen doing the day to day tasks so that the team feel you too get stuck in. But hang on, think back to when you had a manager – did you expect your manager to do everything? Or did it frustrate you when they didn’t delegate and insisted on getting involved in everything?

Fear of abandoning the team

“But if I don’t work with them, they will feel I have abandoned them.” So often the reasons why we do things is down to belief.  When I hear a statement like this, I ask if this statement is based on any evidence.  Most of the time, there is no reason to believe this.  If your team feels properly trained and supported, it is unlikely they will feel abandoned.

Fear of losing control

If you delegate, you won’t know exactly what’s going in every area of the business. It’s worth asking yourself  how much control you will have over the bigger picture and strategic aspects of the business if you don’t take time to focus. Which is more important for you to get involved in?

Belief it’s easier to do it yourself

In the short term, perhaps. It takes time to explain, to train, to ensure they’ve understood. But what happens in the longer term? Taking time in the short term to delegate will bring rewards in the longer term.

Lack of trust

Others wont do as good a job or won’t do it “like you do”. Ask yourself if this is true all the time? It is true that no-one else will do it exactly as you do.  But you may not actually be doing it effectively. Others may have better ideas of how to approach a task. Be open to how others work and see that you too can learn from them. It’s also important to ask yourself how it might feel for a team member to have a controlling boss? Will they feel trusted? If not, what sort of impact could this have?

Bad experience in the past

One difficult experience with a team member/ employee shapes all else. Have there been good experiences as well as bad? We tend to hold negative experiences in our minds for longer than good ones.  Try and shift the focus to the good experience. It might be helpful to ask yourself what you can learn from the bad experience and how you can move on.

Fear of not being needed

What will happen when you’ve delegated much of your work? Will you be a spare part? Will you go too far and delegate yourself out of a job? What is the true likelihood of this happening? Or is it more realistic to see that you will take on different responsibilities that are vital for your business or career development (as well as your sanity)?

Example

I was recently coaching the CEO of a charity. He was overwhelmed with work and stress. We started looking at why. He operated an “open door “ policy for staff which meant staff were free to walk into his office whenever they had a query or problem, or just for a chat. He did this because he wanted to be seen to be part of the team and be up for getting stuck in just like them.

I find it impossible to focus on the bigger more strategic tasks as I just don’t have the time and am constantly being interrupted.

He considered how he might reduce the interruptions.

I don’t want to discourage staff from sharing their problems with me, I want them to feel supported.

On further discussion, he came to realise that he feared not knowing every little detail of what was going on. There was a certain amount of fear of losing control.

To cut a long story short, he realised that this way of supporting others and getting so involved was affecting his work. He decided to speak to his staff and explain that he wanted to support them, but that he would make himself available for certain times of the day. He also discussed how some of the more experienced members of the team could be first points of contact if there were problems. He trialled this and found that staff were very happy to discuss problems with other members of the team before coming to him if something couldn’t be resolved (which was rare). The more experienced members of the team were actually pleased with the increased levels of trust he had shown in them. He found he was approached less frequently with queries and could focus on his own work, which reduced the stress levels considerably. He felt like his work was having more impact and this in turn helped him enjoy the work more.

Could you delegate more?

Ask yourself if you could delegate more? If the answer is yes, what can you start doing now that will set you in the right direction?

If you’d like to discuss coaching or delegation, please email me info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk

“We do not see things as they are….

….we see them as we are”

So much of my work as a coach comes back to this.  When clients struggle to understand the reaction of others, why relationships are difficult, why there might be disagreement at meetings, in teams. It’s so often because we are all seeings things differently.

The assumption that we all interpret things in a similar way is so mistaken.  Everything we hear, see, feel is affected by our thoughts, beliefs and values, which in turn have been created over many years of experience.  From childhood, learning from peers, adults, parents and teachers to adulthood where we surround ourselves much of the time by people who have similar beliefs, values and opinions to us.  We develop a view of the world which is very different to others’.

Our interpretation of events and conversations are so coloured by our own prejudices and bias that we very often will disregard hard facts if they don’t fit in with our own ideas and stories that we unconsciously tell ourselves.  Many studies have been carried out proving this; Claudia Cohen showed people a video of a woman speaking to her husband about her day at work.  Some were told she was a librarian, others were told she was a waitress.  Those who believed she was a waitress remembered facts consistent with her day job, and disregarded those facts that were inconsistent. The same happened for those that understood she was a librarian.  This shows us that we choose information that fits in with our expectations and assumptions, to the detriment of other facts that could perhaps be useful in giving us a clearer picture.

If we choose to do something, we can also choose to do something else. We can choose to question our tendency to see things as we are, and start looking a little further.

Through coaching, our perception of the world and of others can be challenged and we can find ways of being more open minded, which in turn opens the door to more opportunity and the possibility of doing things differently.  Giving people we might not have previously chosen an opportunity, overcoming our previous prejudice or beliefs has multiple benefits.  It is good for you, your work, those around you and the business.

 

For more information about coaching, email info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk.

Questions about coaching

Coaching Q & A

You might have got as far as thinking that working with a coach could benefit you, and you might have started doing a bit of research.   There are many coaching services on offer and so many different titles, terms and descriptions, it’s easy to be confused about what might work for you.

Here are some, hopefully, useful answers that might guide you towards choosing the coach to work with.

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