THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you find saying “no” easy?

528892_546910501994203_1040943432_nWithout the ability to say “No” occasionally, you will inevitably become stressed through being overstretched.  If you find this difficult, then you won’t be alone.  There will be various reasons for why you find this difficult: they could include an inner guilt, inner conflict or a misguided perception that you can do it all.  At various times in our respective careers, we’ve all been there!

However, learning to say “No” can be one of the biggest favours you do for yourself, and for those you love – remember or revisit our first Thursday Thoughts! of 2013 here so perfecting this approach will go a long way to reducing stress and creating more time for whats really important to you – again, revisit this post.


But the big question is “How?”, because the manner in which you say no sends a strong message to the recipient.  Delivered well, it says you value your own time, that you have the same time as everyone else in the team, that you have priorities and that you respect the relationship you have with the person you are saying  no. to.

If you are competent at your job, then the number of worthy requests will not diminish, and you certainly can’t add more hours to a day – it is what it is!

“Power in Delivering a Positive No!” is actually a Harvard Business School course.  Toddlers learn this skill very early on, but we seem to forget how to do it, or more to the like, we recognise the risk we take in exerting it as we get older.  On the basis that we cannot all be fortunate enough to go off to Harvard, in the meantime, here are just a few hints and tips on doing it in such a way that doesn’t offend, destroy, or be harmful in any other way:


  • Tone is everything!  Just try “I’m sorry, I can’t do this for you right now” in a variety of tones and ask a good friend to tell you which one they found hit the mark
  • Try: “let me think about it and I will let you know when I can do this for you” – This is commonly known as uncovering your deeper YES, when you buy some time for something that really hits a core interest or need/value.
  • Negotiate to a healthy YES: Deliver a respectful NO. Don’t reject but offer respect and keep a neutral, matter of fact tone.  Try: “I can’t do this precisely, but I can do this towards it”.  This is commonly known as empowering your NO with a Plan B. In effect you follow up with a positive counterproposal and facilitate a wise agreement, ie a win/win strategy which we’ve previously covered in this series too.

Please do let me know your own experiences on saying no – I’m sure we all have a story to tell on this one.


THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Are you a flashlight in the fog?

6622672413_3fda6f83df_bWe’ve previously covered Fog Factors within this weekly series of questions, to help us write more clearly and accessibly to our intended audiences.  However, as leaders, we should also be doing our bit on the organisational conditions which help drive and sustain progress.  So what are they?  Three simple things leads to progress.  They are:

  • avoid complexity;
  • enable confidence; and
  • be guided by purpose.

We have all been in the situation when complexity has been overbearing and just created fog for us.  The causes of complexity include:

  • a fuzzy purpose;
  • option overload; or
  • perception of obstacles.

As leaders we can exert great influence on all three of these ingredients for complexity.  Reducing complexity creates simplicity.

Simplicity leads to clarity.  There is no shame in admitting you don’t know all the answers.  One of the Habits of Highly Effective People we are currently practicing is “Seek first to understand” – this is vital in creating clarity to move forward and avoid stalling. Anger and frustration is often what becomes vocal during times of complexity.  Hear it, because it will indicate what is important to clarify and the process of clarification is that flashlight in the fog for folk.  Anger means people care about the issue that angers them, redirect that caring into productive activities,  not disruptive ones. Be that flashlight and see how that newfound clarity produces confidence.

Confidence then fuels progress.  The clarity will have highlighted purpose and that newfound purpose will easily answer the omnipresent question when folk are frustrated, that being:  “Whats the big deal anyway”.  This purpose is what you really want to be known and remembered for after all, isn’t it?

What more could a leader ask for anyway?

Click this link to access a short slide deck of this weeks question Flashlight in the Fog.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What are your career issues?

Why should you be concerned about planning your career? Well, it is YOUR career and if YOU don’t take responsibility for the success of it, then who will?  Besides, you spend a lot of hours in work each day so it’s definitely worth your while to make sure you get the most satisfaction from it that you possibly can.

The workplace has been affected by three key ramifications lately:

  1. Less job security: gone are the times of jobs for life with high degrees of security.  You will need to be more mobile and flexible than ever before.
  2. Up is not the only way: there are trends towards more flat organisations and traditional linear career paths are getting more rare, so diversify!
  3. Speedy obsolescence of technical know-how: rapid advancements in technology will require you to up skill and re-tool frequently.

Therefore, its worth putting in some extra time and effort to career planning, and that means making your PdP (personal development planning) much, MUCH more than an annual exercise merely to be tolerated and completed as fast as possible.

Developing a PdP that really works is a 5-part process which involves:

  • Reflecting: prioritise your self awareness and synthesise your thoughts about it;
  • Gain self-awareness: a sustainable PdP emphasises gathering input from many sources;
  • Seek outside input: work hard at gaining information from others to have a rounded picture of  your competences.
  • Develop action steps: how can you get from where you are now to where you’d like to be? What were the  core areas of satisfaction in your career that you identified last week and what steps do you need to take to improve each area?
  • Set longer term goals: cover the bigger picture of achieving the balance you identified last week.  All too often I see goals which are very short term and which are unlikely to do anything for this bigger balanced picture in the long term.

Here is a little 5-minute technique to help you with this task this week.  It’s called a “Career Issues Worksheet” and it was compiled with the help of NASA’s Financial and Resources Management Individual Development Plan Advisor.

What are your career issues?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 2013 Resolutions – How can we achieve some much needed balance?

A very Happy New Year to you all and I hope 2013 is both kind and advancing for you.peanuts

We’ve had a week off from our usual Thursday Thoughts! series and I’m wondering how many of you spent it either reflecting on 2012 or pondering about 2013 resolutions.  So this week I aim to try and find out 🙂

“How can we achieve some much needed balance in our lives?”

When we lead busy lives, its all too easy to find ourselves “off balance” and not paying sufficient attention to very important areas of our lives.  Whilst drive and ambition are indeed, necessary factors for successful careers, taking it too far can lead to frustration and intense stress.  That’s when its important to go into “helicopter view”, assess whats out of balance, and bring things back into focus.  This helps you, as well as everyone around you!

So this seems an appropriate time of year to do just that.  Let’s formally review each areas of our lives in turn and assess what’s off balance.  This will tell us what areas need more of our attention right now.  Here’s a simple method to do this exercise:

1.  write down the dimensions of your life that are important to you. For example: wife, mother, leader, family, friends, physical challenge, mental stimulation etc etc.  These could well be different for everyone but you get the gist of it

2. This approach assumes you will be happy and fulfilled if you can find the right balance of attention for each of these dimensions.  So consider each dimension in turn and assess the amount of attention you are currently devoting to each. On the scale of 0 (low) to 5 (high), score the amount of attention you are devoting to that area of your life.

3.  If you like excel, produce a nice spider diagram by joining up the scores around a circle and look at the shape it produces.  Does it look nice and rounded?  Or do you have horrible spikes poking out of different dimensions?

4.  It’s now time to consider your ideal level in each area.  A balanced life does not mean getting 5 in all areas!  At different times, some areas will need more attention than others and of course you will need to make choices and compromises as your time and energy is not unlimited!

5.  Plot the “ideal” scores around your wheel too and look at the gaps.  These gaps are the areas of your life which need  your urgent attention.  Also, remember that gaps go both ways!  Inevitably, you are expending some energy and enthusiasm which should be directed elsewhere, depending upon what your goals are.

Once you’ve done all this, its time to plan the actions needed to work on regaining that all important balance.

Achieving Balance

This is a great method for improving balance and it helps with the visualisation technique we were previously practicing in our “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” series recently.

The challenge is now to transform this newfound knowledge and desire for a more balanced life into a positive programme of action throughout 2013.  Good luck with it, and as ever, do let us know how you use and feel about this method.

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