Tag Archives: delegating

3 Ways to Say “No” to your Boss Using the Word “Yes”

business-man-modified-1241003For most of us, it’s hard to say “no”—if not all of the time, at least in some situations. One such situation is when you think it might harm your career.  Ironically, sometimes, not saying “no” might actually hurt your career more.

For example, it’s important to say no when you are being asked to do something illegal or immoral or something that you are not likely to succeed at.  You might not succeed at a task because you are too busy to do it well or because you aren’t skilled enough to do it well.  In either case, it will reflect badly on you when you fail.

When I tell people they need to be able to say ”no,” they often balk and say that they can’t say “no” to their boss.  Then I say, “How about if you say ‘yes’ to your boss?”  Their eyes light up when I tell them it’s possible to say “yes” and “no” at the same time.  Try the models below.

Model 1: “Yes…  If I do this then I won’t be able to do that…  Which do you think is more important?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you take on the budget proposal for the new product we’re developing?”

You: “Yes, absolutely.  I’m currently working on the financial analysis of the old product though.  If I take on the budget for the new product, I won’t be able to finish the analysis as quickly and I had originally estimated.  Which do you think is more important to do first?”

Model 2: “Yes…  If I do it in that time frame, however, it won’t be my best work.  I could offer to do this instead…  What do you think would be best?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you write up the 40-page report by tomorrow morning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to.  If I write 40 pages in one day, though, it won’t be polished.  If I had till the end of the week, I’d have time to go over it a second time and proofread it.  What do you think would be best?”

Model 3: “Yes…  Would it be okay to delegate that to …?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you manage the offsite planning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to be responsible for it.  Would it be okay to delegate the work to Marnie?  She’s looking for more leadership opportunities and is good with logistics.”

These exact phrases may not fit with your style, but you get the idea.  You accept the work with full disclosure of the sacrifice (not completing other work, not your best quality work, or not you actually doing the work) and give your boss the opportunity to decide what is more important.  If your boss says, for example, that she doesn’t need your best quality on a 40-page report, just a rough draft, or maybe even an outline, then you’ve brought it down to a reasonable task in a short time frame.  If your boss says he needs it to be top quality and would rather wait, then you have turned it into a reasonable time frame to complete the task.

Bosses don’t want their people to fail.  It reflects badly on them too when you fail.  They want the work done and done well and done on time.  You need to speak up when you won’t be able to deliver.  A positive way to do that is to help the boss find solutions, rather than raise obstacles.  Bosses like solutions.  And the bosses who don’t like to hear “no” like to be able to decide what is more important.  If you give them that opportunity using the models above, then you will be able to keep your head above water too.

Give the Gift of Independence

gift boxIt’s a simple gift, but it’s one leaders often overlook. There’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep our employees on a tight leash. But, in doing so, we disempower them and cripple their growth. Although it may be a winning strategy in the short-term, it is doomed to fail as we count on the capability of our protégés over the long-term.

 Why don’t leaders give employees independence?

 It’s scary.

“What if something bad happens?” Yes, that is always the risk, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. When you’re home sick, can your employees get things done without you?

To let go, you have to face your fears, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders in How Office Control Freaks Can Learn to Let Go, in Harvard Business Review. Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.

We can also mitigate risk by giving appropriate levels of responsibility for the experience and character of the employee. For example, we wouldn’t want to give a new graduate a $10 million project to run, but we could give them responsibility for a piece of it, like researching what the competition is doing.

It’s hard.

“I don’t have time.” It’s often quicker to do it ourselves, but that is only a short-term strategy. Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse and it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. Amy Gallo suggests looking into the reasons you’re not delegating in her article on how to delegate in Harvard Business Review. Are you working long hours and feeling indispensable?

“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management.

When you keep doing it yourself, you’re wasting your time and your employees’ time. When you empower your employees to get things done without you everybody wins.

It’s painful.

“It feels good to be needed.” Yes, we all like to feel needed—by our kids, our jobs, our community and so on. But at some point you have to let go. It’s the right thing to do. When you continue to put your own needs ahead of everyone else’s, you’re risking greater pain than the pain of letting go. When you hold on too long, people resent you and the greater family/organization/community suffers. Suck it up, be a good role model, and develop your people to manage without you when the time is right.

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”  ― Ann Landers

Empower your people. It’s the right thing to do for you, for your employees, and, most of all, for your organization.

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