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Monica Wofford is a leadership development expert who develops leaders. For more information, go to www.MonicaWofford.com or www.ContagiousCompanies.com

If you say yes to too much, you close the window of time to say yes to the things, dreams, and actions in line with your own dreams and business goals.

If you take on too much, say yes to more than you should, or lead overwhelmed employees whose task lists are more than full, you have a yes mess.  Yet, the intellectual realization that one says yes to too much is much different than knowing how to fix the issue.  The observation of employees who are stressing out over pressure to do too much is valuable. Knowing how to coach them through that will make you a better leader. Both in leading yourself and in leading others, the common theme and question is how does one stop this pattern of behavior. This is the focus of today’s Monday Moment.

The Ask

Many leaders say yes to whatever is asked of them. The category on a job description of “other duties as assigned” does exist for a reason, but it creates the belief and temptation that in order to be seen as doing a good job at leading, we must say yes to myriad and unlimited requests. The real key is what are you asking back when asked to take on a task. Do you clarify the scope? How big a project is this? Do you ask if there is support available? Do you assume you are the only one who must be involved and act as if that’s the case because that’s your comfort zone or do you ask others for help? A request for you to be involved does not require a simple one word answer in response. Ask more questions when asked the question of “can you do something else?” The act of asking for clarity before you just say yes to everything, will give you time to think. It’s an information gathering method and a stalling technique. Effective, particularly if your knee jerk reaction is to just say yes and figure out what later might be a mess.

The Urge

It’s possible you and those you lead are saying yes to too many things because there exists a desire to please. Perhaps it’s a desire to be all things to all people. Maybe it’s an urge to be seen favorably, amiably, and easy to work with. There are other ways to achieve each of these things besides overloading your plate, trading it in for a platter, and dealing with your stressed out reactions when you’ve taken on too many things. In fact, there are far less painful ways to satisfy these urges and achieve these feelings. Examine these things. As a leader, are you saying yes to impress your boss? As employees, are they saying yes because they’ve never been taught to say “not now’ or “no, thank you.” Is yes being perceived as your answer because you said nothing in response and someone took silence to imply agreement? What are you really after and is the work you need to do more about becoming self-aware of what is really important to you?

The Habit

Leading your own behavior effectively and becoming a better leader of others includes paying attention to your habit patterns. Saying yes to everyone and everything or even just the bright and shiny looking opportunities could be nothing more than a habit of which you’re unaware. What are your concerns that crop up when someone asks you to do something ? What are the fears presented in your head or actions you dread if you didn’t say yes? What do you imagine that other person or committee will think if you dare not take on another project and say yes before they blink? Habits are exceedingly powerful behavior motivators and once a habit develops we rarely realize we’re committing the same repeated actions over and over. Look at what comes up automatically. Use the questions as a response to give yourself a few extra seconds. This is usually all it takes for the urge to recommit that habit to dissipate.

Whether you struggle with you inability to turn down a request or you are watching employees deal with the impending stress of being overloaded, these three areas of action will help you lead more effectively and with less stress. Teach them to those you lead and those you see struggling. After all, it’s no fun to continue to complain about one of our behaviors if we’re not willing to look at, try out, and employ even simple solutions.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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