Get Better at Saying "No"


New year, new resolutions to achieve more, do more, be better than, and yet… you worked so hard last year. Can you really do more? Are you feeling daunted by your to-do list?

Perhaps, the answer to working smarter and achieving more is to do less.

Business owners are notoriously reluctant to ‘let go’ and allow others to do things because historically they have had to be self-sufficient and run a lean machine. However, being the chief cook and bottle washer is neither sustainable nor desirable in the long run.

To think strategically, you need the time and head space to think and plan. Micro-managing your team or refusing to delegate results in serious inefficiencies and demotivated staff. Moreover, it leaves you tired and potentially ineffectual as a leader.

4 steps to being a better naysayer

1. Stop! Think!

Identify what’s important to the success and sustainability of the business and what’s not. What is the vision and what are the goals for the year? Projects that are directly linked to achieving these are important. This is where you and your senior people ought to be focusing your time and energy. Everything else is secondary. (Note: Your focus needs to be on the what and why - the how can be achieved through delegation. For instance, improving customer experience is an important goal, but it is made up of several tasks that can be delegated. A wise leader focuses on the results and simply guides the process where necessary.)

2. Train your employees

Your employees may be in the habit of asking you because they are uncertain and afraid of making mistakes. Rather than immediately ‘rescuing’ the person, use this as a teachable moment. Encourage the person to think through what is needed and the best way of achieving it. Take an extra few minutes to teach the why and save yourself the irritation of repeatedly having to explain the how in the future. For larger teams, written policies, procedures and checklists are useful tools to ensure that tasks are completed to the required standard.

3. Accept mistakes

You cannot have your cake and eat it. The more you let go, the higher the likelihood of mistakes. Policies, procedures and clear instructions minimise mistakes happening, but nothing is foolproof.  A rule of thumb is to look at the nature of the mistake and the attitude of the employee. Is this a genuine error or a case of negligence and how severe are the consequences (potential and real)? People learn from their mistakes, which means that leaders have to accept this as a cost of learning.

5. Be prepared to miss out

We all have certain jobs that we enjoy doing. It’s human to choose to spend your energy on the tasks you enjoy over the ones you don’t. This is not to suggest that you are not entitled to some job satisfaction, but, when in doubt, refer to point 1. What is important?

Start the year as you mean to go on and avoid becoming the hamster on a wheel.


Author Janet Askew

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