by Lori Milner, author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
In a recent workshop I trained on personal branding, the topic of saying yes to please other people came up. And more so around the debate of wanting to show up as a credible and reliable brand but also knowing your boundaries and limitations. My advice I shared was about managing people’s expectations. If someone asks us to do something, we feel this compulsion to want to solve it for them today or under an unrealistic deadline in order to appear ‘super’ efficient and not want to let them down.
Often, if we simply say that we can get to it tomorrow or only next week because of prior commitments, majority of the time you will find people being ok with it. We impose these unrealistic deadlines on ourselves and land up compromising quality for quantity which inevitably hurts our brand and damages our reputation but most critically their trust in us. The work will long be forgotten but your reputation will not.
So next time someone asks if you can ‘just’ do this proposal or attend a meeting, manage the expectation. Sometimes this can be a boss or manager which makes it difficult but how about saying ‘Currently, I’m working on x, y and z. if I take this on then something will need to lose my focus. Which one do you want me to prioritise? So again, in this way, you are still being a credible and reliable person but making them see your current task list and also asking for guidance on where to prioritise.
Another solution by author, Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, there is a great section called “The No Repertoire.” He suggests the phrase, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” One leader I know found her time being hijacked by other people all day. A classic Nonessentialist, she was capable and smart and unable to say no, and as a result she soon became a “go to” person. People would run up to her and say, “Could you help with X project?” Meaning to be a good citizen, she said yes. But soon she felt burdened with all of these different agendas. Things changed for her when she learned to use a new phrase: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” It gave her the time to pause and reflect and ultimately reply that she was regretfully unavailable. It enabled her to take back control of her own decisions rather than be rushed into a “yes” when she was asked
And in the wise words of Warren Buffet "The difference between people and very successful people is that successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything." Here’s to the journey of saying no.
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
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