I’ve been getting ready to post a set of resources (video, blog, worksheet) on how to say “no.”  I thought that before I did that, I should probably spend some time on the topic of when to say “yes.” Here is a quick but important review that you should do when a significant (or even an insignificant) piece of new work hits your desk.

What you’re looking for is work that’s in your sweet spot: the intersection between what you were hired to do, what you are great at, and what is most important to your team in the current situation. If you spend as much time and energy as possible in that sweet spot, you’ll make a huge contribution to your team. You’ll also feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

I was hired to do this:

You need to say yes to the things you were hired to do.  What is your title? What is your role? What is your team expecting of you? It’s shocking, I know, but many people spend time and energy on the things they like to do, rather than the things the organization and the team is counting on them to do. Don’t be one of those people.  If you act like you are working for yourself, your company might soon make it official!  Figure out your role and add that value first. If you have time for hobbies at work when all your real job is done—knock yourself out.

I am good at this:

Time you spend on work that your great at will yield much greater returns than time spent on things you’re bad at.  Try to spend as much time as possible doing work that you excel at.  Unfortunately, spending time and energy doing work you aren’t good at can be really tempting.  You’re trying to pull your weight, you’re trying to be conscientious and get things done.  I am reminded of my dad’s line about people who use the excuse that they’re “trying.”  He simply responds “yes you are, very trying.” If you’re not good at something, ask for help and do it before your lack of skill leaves your team behind the eight ball.

This is important right now:

You should be choosing a triaging all the possible work you could be doing based on what is the most important to the team right now.  There are lots of things that show up on your job description and that you’re great at that just aren’t that important, right now. Devoting time and energy to those things might feel good, but you’re doing a disservice to your team.  It’s easy to procrastinate by doing things that seem valuable.  These days, you can’t afford to be doing lower priority work. Figure out what’s important and get focused on that first.

Get your priorities straight. Make sure you’re saying “yes” to the right work.

Further Reading

Know When and How to Say No

Enough is Enough! Tips and Tools for Saying No

Focus your Time on your Real Value

7 Responses to When to Say Yes: Staying in Your Sweet Spot

  1. Tiina

    Hi Liane….you should write a blog on those things that leaders should say “No Effing way” to or perhaps something a little more appropriate but with the same passion. What I am trying to get at is that I think sometimes leaders are not questioning enough or pushing back enough on work that is flowing to them from the top of the organization. I think leaders have to have enough managerial courage to go to bat for their teams when they are being asked to do work which seems urgent yet unimportant, not aligned to strategy or mandate or when the team’s resources are already overwhelmed in trying to deliver on yesterday’s goofy requests.

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  3. Ronald

    Hi Liane,
    I agree that when you are buried in work and you can’t get to everything, its easy to reach for the things you like to do. One of the things I struggle with is the other side of the equation you mentioned, but did not talk about, “what is important to the team”.

    At my last place of employment I had picked up a several little roles that very few in the office had the skill set for, and I was the only one willing to do. Audio conference equipment assistance and tricky formatting/troubleshooting were not part of my duties as cost controller but if I did not take 5 minutes to help them, they would have spent hours on it (or perhaps already had), or have an embarrassing meeting/presentation with a client.

    I will admit I did enjoy doing those tasks, and I enjoyed helping my friends/coworkers, but I think it was also best for the division as a whole.

    Perhaps I should have pushed back and eventually maybe management would have noticed a problem and addressed it with training, but then again…

    • Ronald, thanks for visit the blog and for leaving such a thought provoking comment. What does one do when a task is important to the team but not covered in anyone’s job? I think you’re onto the right idea when you say that pushing back would have helped management see the problem. Because you were providing a work-around for the organization, there was no awareness of your extra responsibilities or ability to prioritize these tasks relative to your other workload. So, the long term answer is to bring it to someone’s attention. In the short-term, pitching in and getting it done is the team player move. I’ll keep pondering this one. thanks again, Liane

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