Last week, we talked about thinking carefully before answering the question “Are you available?” As a follow-up to that conversation, another really important question to ask is “Does it need to be me?” Whether you are in a meeting and someone asks who would be able to provide follow-up on an action item OR if you are leading a meeting and when you ask who can take on a specific role and there is nothing but silence, are you quick to volunteer? Do you ever find yourself trying to do things that you know that others can do but you are hesitant to ask them? Are you concerned that if you ask others to do things that you will overwhelm them and so you avoid asking (and end up being overwhelmed yourself)?
If you can say, “yes” to any of these questions, join me in exploring 3 potential reasons why this might be happening. I’ve experienced all three of these in one way or another throughout my career. I have found it particularly helpful to understand why so that I can figure out why I want to do things differently next time!
Lack of Time. You may be too busy to teach others. You have so much going on and you could just do it yourself more quickly than it would take to teach someone else. While this may be true in the moment, when you are constantly doing what someone else could do on your team or in your partnership, you are likely not able to focus on what only you can do. You are also missing an opportunity to expand what can be done for your team or partnership overall because you are not training others and building additional capacity. And when you keep saying yes to things that others could do, those minutes add up to hours and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. Then, you have to work a lot more than you planned in order to accomplish those things that you have already committed to doing and you have to take away from other priorities to get them done (family, friends, health, etc.).
People pleasing. We want to show that we are contributing to the team. We know that everyone else is busy and we are trying to make things easier for others. We may think that if we keep volunteering for things that we will be seen as important or that we will be able to get promoted. Or perhaps we are new to our role as a leader and we want everyone to like us and respect us so we are quick to take on more responsibilities. While there are definitely times that it does need to be us, we have to think really carefully about what those are – and what those aren’t. Also, if our desire is to please others by taking on more responsibility, when we take on too much, we are not able to follow-through and will actually disappoint these same people! We may also be “pleasing” the wrong people. Are we trying to please people we work with who might be demanding and unreasonable and then we sacrifice “pleasing” those we say are most important to us – our family, our children, our friends and more?
Fear. Sometimes we are afraid that others won’t do things as well as we can or that we are going to cause others to be overwhelmed if we ask for their help. We may be afraid that others will think we aren’t doing as much as we “should” be doing in our role/position. We may be afraid that if we ask someone for help they might be upset or grumpy (this can be particularly true if you are working with someone who constantly complains). I remember one of my previous colleagues (and for a time someone I co-supervised) who made it really difficult for us to ask her to do anything. She was quick to complain and focus on what other colleagues were not doing rather than doing her own job. She created a culture of fear and many of us were afraid to ask her to do anything because it always seemed like it was a complete inconvenience. If we let fear drive our decisions on whether we do things – or not – we will find ourselves overwhelmed and once again having a difficult time accomplishing what only we can do well and being able to truly commit time to our priorities.
So what about you? Which of these do you resonate with as you consider “does it need to be me?” Which of these have you been able to address? Next week, we will talk about some strategies we can implement to help us not always be the ones to say “yes” when something needs to be done!
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