Excuse me, did you just tell me NO?
“Hey Matt, could you take care of this for me?”
“No I can’t at this time. I’m really buried in this project at the moment.”
Did he just tell me no?
Congratulations! As a leader you’ve done your job. When an employee can tell their supervisor no, you have helped to eliminate the fear factor. The fear factor of I’m too busy to take on anything else at this time. Too many times we hand off projects or assign tasks to people who are overburdened and would never say no to their supervisor. That’s an unhealthy spot to be in. I’ve heard it too many times, “I’m drowning here and nobody seems to care.”
Now does this mean that “no” would be acceptable all the time? Of course not; each situation must be looked at independently. You may ask Matt to take this on because he’s the only one capable of doing it or because it’s time sensitive. In any case, if you’re going to put more on his plate you have to take something off or change your expectations.
What if everyone isn’t like Matt and they don’t say no? Then it’s your responsibility to ask questions before you just add something on their plate. What are you working on at this time? Is it possible for you to add this to your already full plate? Is there something I can do to alleviate some of this workload for you? Reassure them that it’s okay to say no.
If you’ve hired the right people in the first place, they’re going to work hard. Believe in them, encourage them, push their comfort zone from time to time, and let them know that it’s okay to say no. Don’t let fear get in the way.
Mike Klockenbrink is chief of staff at Lakeside Church, Folsom, CA. [ www.lakesidechurch.com]