Last week, we began our discussion about “Does it need to be me?” and focused on the reasons we may be quick to say “yes” and take on more than we can handle. While it is important to understand the why, it can be very discouraging if we don’t have some ways we can take action in a different direction! And sometimes, it DOES need to be us and if we are saying no to the things that don’t need to be us, then we can say “yes” to the things that do.
When I think of this concept, I think of Andy Stanley who reminds leaders to “do what only you can do.” In practice, what does it really mean? And how can we apply it, particularly when we are on a small team or just starting a new partnership or coalition? This is not easy – and for some of us – it can take LOTS of practice and we need to keep practicing and trying again and again in different life and work seasons.
Here are 3 practical steps you can take when making the decision to volunteer – or not – when something needs to be done.
- Pause. I know in elementary school we were rewarded when we were the first to raise our hands, but we can’t keep raising our hands without reflecting on how that impacts the rest of our commitments and priorities! When you are in a meeting, this can be really difficult. There may be silence — for a few seconds or even a couple of minutes. I don’t know about you, but when there is silence and I know I COULD do it, I often want to break that silence and volunteer to make everyone feel better. But THEN…those around me are feeling the burden of me taking on too much of a burden (….people pleasing…who are we pleasing?). If pausing seems really uncomfortable for you during a meeting, you could even suggest (if you are the leader or not) that you can wait on the decision. Perhaps everyone in the meeting needs time to process and think so you can suggest a follow-up email or a decision to be made at a future meeting about who will take on this particular role. Or, it may be that the timing isn’t right for anyone to do it at that time. It may be a project or an idea that needs to wait a few months or even a year to be implemented because no one really has the capacity to do it well at the time.
- Ask someone else. Think of someone else and ask if she can do it. While you may be able to do it, if you are doing what only you can do, there is a good possibility that what needs to be done may be a better fit for someone else right now. This morning in church, our pastor who also provides leadership training, Harry Li, highlighted a matrix similar to Stephen Covey’s “Put First Things First” concept and suggested that those items that are not important (to you) but are “urgent” (often for someone else) often end up becoming interruptions and are the perfect types of things to delegate to others. Rather than quickly trying to just do it, take some time to think about who else might be a good fit for what needs to be done and ask them. You may need to provide some coaching initially, but then you have expanded their skills and your capacity to do what is important (to you) and not urgent!
- Say yes or no. After you have paused and perhaps you have even asked someone else, you still may need to make a decision. You need to decide if you are going to say yes or no – and follow-through with either one.
- If “yes”, then work out a realistic timeframe and any additional support you may need to be able to follow through with your “yes”.
- If “no”, particularly if you cannot identify or find someone else, then be honest, clear and direct about your “no.” You don’t have to give an explanation; however, if you would like to give an explanation, one of the best ones to provide is that “In order for me to fulfill my existing commitments, I am unable to volunteer for this project or serve on this board or give this keynote presentation…”. (Thank you again, Michael Hyatt)
- Also, if you are going to say “no” and you know from the very beginning that you are going to say no, then say it quickly! If you wait to respond because of any number of reasons (people pleasing, fear, etc…), you may be preventing the person or team from finding the right person to say yes and actually making this more difficult for them.
Ok, so the next time you get an opportunity to take on something new — likely later today — I encourage you to use these skills to make the best decision for you at the time. Pause, think of someone else and then decide yes or no!