27
Mar

This is part two of my blog series in preparation for the launch of the How to Say “No” toolkit (coming soon).  Step one, described in the first post, was to figure out what to say “yes” to.  In it, I talked about the importance of staying focused in your sweet spot; that magical intersection of work you were hired to do, that you’re great at, and that is most important to your team.

Today, the perils of falling to the temptation of work that’s not in that sweet spot.  And when I say that it’s not in the sweet spot, I’m not talking about activities that miss all three criteria.  If you can’t delete those from your life, you’re in trouble.

Instead, I’m talking about the really tough spots to say “no,” the activities that make the grade on two out of three criteria.  And with all respect to Meatloaf and his eminently hummable 1970’s hit “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” in this case, two out of three just doesn’t cut it.

Play out the different scenarios and you’ll see the issues:

  1. If it’s your job and you’re great at it, but it’s not important to your team at the moment, then you’re probably putting off doing something that’s even more important. You may rationalize that you’re doing meaningful work, but if it’s not the most important work you could be doing, you can’t afford it. You’ll be the most accomplished irrelevant person around. Don’t procrastinate.
  2. If you’re great at it and it’s important to the team, but it’s not your role, you’re doing someone else’s job. You’re either stepping on their toes, sucking up to the boss, or covering for someone else’s incompetence.  Any one of those is a disaster for your team.  If your boss chooses to change your job because you’re the best person to do the work, then it’s a different story, but until then, don’t spend time doing someone else’s job when you have a job to get done yourself. Don’t overstep.
  3. If you were hired to do the work and it’s important to the team but you’re not great at it, you’re in over your head. Yup, that’s hard to swallow, and even harder to admit, but that’s your responsibility as a member of a team. Tell your team you’re not positioned to succeed. Ask for the help you need to do the job well. Maybe you need to work with someone who’s done it before. Maybe you need extra coaching from your boss. Fumbling around with work you’re not good at is not a good use of anyone’s time. You’ll probably let your team down in the process. Don’t pretend.

Can you think of something you need to say “no” to today? Can you get up off your chair and go do something about it? Good.

Further Reading

Know When and How to Say No

How to Reduce Stress

How to Build your Resilience

3 Responses to Stop Making Excuses for Overextending Yourself

  1. Andrew Webster

    Great and helpful post as usual, Liane.

    The forthcoming Adam Grant book “Give and Take” (see yesterday’s NYT Magazine cover: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/is-giving-the-secret-to-getting-ahead.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) draws on his and others’ recent research that shows that the least successful people in the world are “givers” (alternatives are “matchers” and “takers”). Givers also happen to be the most successful people. The difference is those givers that don’t know when to say no – they lack the filters you’ve introduced here – get walked all over.

  2. Hi Andrew, thanks so much for your comment. I just found today’s New York Times article about him. What a fascinating guy. Gives one hope for the future of mankind. He clearly has great filters he uses to decide where he can add value. Thanks for turning me on to his work.

  3. Pingback: Enough is Enough!–Tips and Tools for Saying NO | 3coze

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