If you're overworked, here's one way to eliminate things you shouldn't be doing.
- Why we don't say No.
- The paradigm shift to leadership.
- Why we need to say No.
- How to say No.
Ref: Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown
Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hi, this is Dex, and this episode today is for anyone who's in overwork because they can't say, "No." Overwork is one of the big features of burnout, and my clients generally consider themselves good time managers, but they still can't see the bottom of their inbox. The two biggest factors in that tend to be procrastination and not saying, no. And I'm gonna talk about procrastination in a later episode, but right now, let's take a closer look at no. And there's a lot of reasons why we don't say no, and I'm gonna run through them on purpose. When we get a work request, even though it's not our rightful task, we often add it to the pile already on the plate. And here are some of the things that we tell ourselves, "Other people can't do this as well as me. It's urgent, I better do it. No one knows how to do this, I'm the only one. Others are too lazy or they don't care, it won't be prioritised. It'll be easy for me, it won't take long." "So many people are leaving, I don't wanna put pressure on those who remain. My boss, colleague, client, patient is relying on me. The project will die if I don't get this done. We're losing time or money on this. I'm supposed to fix stuff like this. I already promised I'd help them out. I can't say no to my boss. It will ruin my career if I don't do this. They'll think I don't know how to do it if I say no. I used to do this, why not just get it done. I know they expect me to do it because I said yes last time. If I don't do it, who will? If I say no, they'll be upset. He did me a favor before and I owe him one. I don't want to look lazy. They're doing it wrong or too slowly. Why can't they see the answer? I'll do it. It would take longer to train them to do it than do it myself. They're overloaded, I'll just take this one off them. I don't want to tell him he got it wrong, I'll just fix it. My team's performance is my responsibility." And last, but by no means least in my list, "I can catch up at the weekend." You recognise any of your own thoughts in there? So how did it feel to hear them, if you did? And did I miss out your favorite one? If I did, I'm sorry. It's a good idea to write down a list of your headliners, and inspect them, get to know them, what is it you tell yourself when something comes across your desk? See how you're wrecking your own schedule. Every single one of those thoughts I gave you is open to sanity checking. Maybe they're right sometimes, but maybe mostly there's another option. Perhaps you've misread expectations or even consequences of not doing it. Maybe they're just excuses to avoid awkward conversations. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. That's from Warren Buffet. So sometimes this can occur for people who are in the paradigm shift to leadership, so let's take a step back a minute and look at one of the reasons we fall into the trap of overwork. It can be because we can't let go of the idea that we can do the work, so we should do the work. Doing the work is kind of less bad than saying no. Many of my clients are trained as high level technicians in their profession, skilled at solving functional problems in an analytical way, finding the right answer based on protocols, knowledge and risk assessment. I would include in there IT, medicine, law, research, engineering, accountancy, finance and similar disciplines. Such people with specialist knowledge and years of experience become highly trusted experts, they've trained their brains to solve complex problems quickly according to their specialisation and systemised processes, accumulating greater experience with every passing year. And when those people are promoted to leadership positions, they're typically introduced to a bunch of leaders in other disciplines that they're not familiar with. Maybe they're given a swanky office, invited to lots of meetings, asked to make strategic decisions, and often given legacy problems the last person couldn't solve. So thrust into a world of managing multiple projects, multiple teams, resources, big budgets, suddenly playing a longer game with more moving parts. And I think leadership requires a diametrically opposed way of thinking to their technician days. And many organizations expect gifted technicians to transition smoothly, intuitively to become talented leaders, but that's not how they've trained their brains to work, it can be a really bumpy ride, I know it was for me. And I find it fascinating how poorly many organizations train the people they promote to leadership positions, considering the weight they put on their shoulders. Leadership focuses on future targets much more than immediacy, and on communication and team building rather than personal skills. And all that juicy hard one technical acumen that brought success, becomes just kind of background material. So to be an effective leader involves at minimum, upscaling decision making, very little tactical. And in Harrington, this is letting go of the small stuff, whatever created that success until now, so you have to let go. And if that's you and you're not saying no now, you're probably lost in the weeds of work that no longer belongs to you. Are you in fact trying to do two jobs? So thinking about why we need to say no then, well, clearly to make room to focus on higher level solutions in the first place, but also to train out trust and empower our people, to concentrate our focus on where we can contribute the best and let go of the small stuff, to free up creative space to understand the big picture, to operate at a strategic level of thinking and to upscale and strengthen our decision making, to save time and money, sometimes a task doesn't need doing at all, to develop team leadership skills, to get the right work done, and lastly, to protect the asset, that's you, so you don't get resentful, exhausted and burnt out. And when we think about that, I mean, making a case for saying no is easy, you want to work less, right? Oh, I bet. As you're listening to this, if you're overworked, you're telling me in your head right now, why you're not going to say no, why you have to keep saying yes. You're actually arguing to keep your workload. Saying no is harder. Why is that? Well, when we agree to do something, there's no resistance from the person asking, that's what they wanted. Another thing they don't have to worry about, they might even smile, looked relieved, thank us. We're lying a bit when we try to take on more work than we have time for though, and it's gonna come back to bite us and probably them in the end. We know that, and they know that, but we suggest and now it's our problem. The cost of that yes overtime can ultimately be our job, our marriage, our health, time with our kids and all sorts of other collateral damage. But in the moment, it for sure is easier than no. No, has immediate consequence. Yes, has a deferred one. Saying yes, buys us time, but it's time we don't have, because we're kind of pushing ourselves into time debt. We're not gonna be able to deliver, but it does stave off the awkwardness of explaining or justifying why we won't do something and risking putting others offside. So that's really it. Culturally, we think we should say yes. We should have a can do attitude, help others out, be Superman. And personally, we're more comfortable saying, yes than no, and looking like the good guy. When you look more deeply into the service you give at work, is more better? What's your gut telling you right now on that one? When I coach people out of overwork, the main benefit to them is that they recoup energy and enthusiasm, suddenly they have free time again, but they also end up doing the best fit work for them, which naturally raises the quality of their work. Of course, when they tame their workload, they also massively reduce anxiety. So let's look for a second at how to say no.For this, I really love the book, Essentialism:
The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. And if you've never read it, I do highly recommend it. So Greg suggest we first off decide to do less but better. Made sense to me. I tried it, it worked. And busyness, by the way, is an addiction, we get an adrenalin burst from it. It's easier to be engulfed in work than to sit back and work methodically in our own time. We don't like being left alone with our own brain, because it's not always nice to us. So, less but better, then when faced with a work request, we can ask ourselves, "Does this task really matter? And what are the trade offs if I do it or don't do it? Is it in my core skill set? And do I actually want to do it?" I also like to ask myself, "Will saying yes throw a resentment to me?" That can be a bit of a tip off. And sometimes it's, we're thinking about how you're gonna feel if or when you say no. Is that a big relief? Can you feel that weight coming off your shoulders? Then I also ask, "Can I delegate it? Could someone else do it well enough? Will it empower my team to learn how to do this?" Remember, particularly if you've been promoted, people will expect you to say no more. If you say no, you inspire others to value your time. If you're a yes man, the person you disappoint most is yourself. So let's say that there's a task that you feel an urge to say yes to, when you're deeper answer is no. First, take a second, I think, to tell yourself, why it's a no, and find resolve in that, like your reason. Commit internally to your no, before you share it and then you can just say no. It's a very short word that can be its own paragraph. Sometimes it's easier to leave it at that, rather than spin out excuses that can be refuted or argued with. You may not need to justify your no. If it can stand alone, then let it, then say no, firmly. Often, this attracts respect. Sometimes when I just use that one word, no, it's funny, we can laugh at it, and that breaks the tension of the no itself. But I mean, there are graceful ways of saying no that you can also practice, and when I say practice, I mean keep trying, keep trying and you'll get better and better. It's just a skill. So one of those is, "No, but." And then offer something that you would do. We could say, "Thanks for asking, but I can't do it at present." If you're talking to your boss, you could say, "Yes, what should I de prioritise to make space for this?" You can say something like, "I'll check my calendar and get back to you," if the no right on the nose is too much, and then you can make a later no, more possible, more simple. You can say, "I am willing to do whatever it is," something else, there's kind of an implied no hidden in that. Or you could say, if you're feeling particularly, particularly brave or mean, I can't quite decide, "No, but why don't you ask... " And give them somebody else's name. But in any way, saying no is gonna free up your time, but it would also raise your self respect. Think about that. Being the go to guy is not all your worth. Just say no. Thank you for listening today. I appreciate you being here. You can visit my website at dexrandall.com for the show notes and please do subscribe and rate this podcast. Thank you. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership Program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.