This new year I tweeted the following…

Yes, I was trying to be funny, but I was also DEAD SERIOUS.

The principle (in case you didn’t catch it) is that we are CONSTANTLY giving into our kid’s wishes (begging, pleading, whining and threats rather) just to make them stop!

In the car this equates to handing them a snack while strapped in their seats and when all their little crumbs and morsels reach critical mass, we have no choice but to head to the industrial strength vacuum place to settle it!

But that is not the worst thing about giving into their demands.

You see the thing I’ve learned¬†about parenting so far is that it appears to be a constant battle of training… training and conditioning. And every time and every way you respond to your child when they are attempting to illicit a certain response trains them… trains them for good or for bad.

That will, believe it or not, have an impact on the type of human they become one day… no pressure…

By us giving into their demands while driving around in the car we were cementing something in their minds and hence their development: ‘every time we¬†scream loud enough, they¬†WILL give in and throw us¬†a snack.’

It’s the same in any other area of our lives… if a co-worker, significant other, family member “screams” loud enough, eventually we’ll say “yes” when it would have been far healthier for everyone involved if we¬†had said, “no.”

Your healthy “no” could be pressing in on any one of these areas, for me and my wife-our leadership-we¬†understand the value of “no” in our parenting and the gift that will ultimately¬†be to our kids.

In case you were wondering, here is¬†just 1¬†major¬†value of a healthy “no” to our kids in this illustration: delayed gratification…¬†which instills¬†patience, self-control and determines a person’s ability to achieve greater success in life.

Most importantly of all, however, it gives them perspective; a more realistic view of the future world they will inhabit,¬†that they will not just be handed what they want, when they want it.¬†We are not an earthly slot machine, God is not a celestial slot machine and the people they surround themselves with one day won’t be either!


Here’s the problem as it extends to our work:

Most of us run around¬†overbooked, overstretched, overextended and overstressed and we keep saying “yes” to things, so we keep losing…¬†and we aren’t the only ones either. I would argue¬†that the¬†organization loses big time too.

I don’t know what the moment will be, for you, to finally calculate the opportunity cost of your yes/no answers, but there was a critical time for me when the leadership team at my work gathered for a two-day offsite nearly 6 months ago.

You see as a staff one of the things we realized is that we did not have enough trust to finally be honest with each other and call it like it is (hence pushing each other and the organization forward).

So our boss led us through an exercise where we went around listing people’s strengths and weaknesses and took turns reading them out loud¬†to each other. There were about a dozen people in the room so lots of things were shared, but when it came around to me here are some of the common things I was hearing:¬†“takes on too much…” “fails to execute…” “distracted and unfocused…”

Hhhmmm, dang… I got¬†the memo…

Much of this, in my reflection, had to do with the inability¬†to say a healthy “no.” Which is fundamentally about prioritizing my month, week, day around¬†the absolute most vital values of my job and the organization I serve.

Let me give you 3 reasons and 5 tips:

1. Say “no” because it will restore health in areas you didn’t even realize were backwards

You see, for me, I had to wait for years before hearing those comments from my bold and loving teammates that I had a problem and it was affecting my work product AND my legacy-and THAT was not okay. Don’t wait to hear from someone else that you’re not disciplined in your work. Do the tough work of reflection and get healthy in your work flow again.

2. Say “no” because it leads to focused action and better quality in your work

One of my single greatest learnings this past year was the term my supervisor would drill all day long: “impact over effort… impact over effort… impact over effort.” His point was simple: ‘Ben, I don’t care if you work from home or if you work 4 hours today… if it gets the results, meets the targets, goals are green and we are seeing the outcomes then GREAT!” But you can’t see those types of outcomes if your work is unfocused and tossed by the wind.

3. Say “no” because the¬†strength of a well-placed “no” is equal to a 100 wishy-washy “yes’s”¬†

Just think of my story above, that is what led to my reputation as the guy who “over-promises and under-delivers”… no one wants to be that guy. So stop letting your “yes” be watered down to the point of meaningless¬†because you didn’t¬†have a firm grip on your priorities and values.

Tips:

  1. Ask for more time when someone puts you on the spot and you need to make a decision.
  2. Every single employee on planet earth must have these 3 things in order to be successful in this life (in this order): vision (the why), goals (the what) and strategies (the how). These will HUGELY impact your ability to say yes/no and, ultimately, your outcomes.
  3. Schedule your values. When you’re done with #2 simply drop those values into your calendar on a monthly, weekly, daily and hourly basis.
  4. Tell someone, anyone, EVERYONE what you’re up to! That way you educate those around you, affecting what they would even approach you about in the first place! (And build in some accountability along the way.)
  5. Put in feedback loops and constantly reevaluate. Because anything worth doing is worth evaluating.

What is one thing you know you need to stop doing/say “no” to today? What are your top 3 values in your current job and how many hours are you devoting to those 3 things each week?

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