Last week I had a conversation with Cynthia Whitaker. Cindy is a Nurse Executive with Swedish Hospital, and we were discussing how nurses specifically, but other healing, helping and supportive professionals also, feel a high need to say yes to people when they need to say no. For many nurses, they believe that saying no means they are being disloyal and unsupportive.
This becomes especially problematic for managers when they are invited to ten, twelve or fifteen meetings per week, and by attending these meetings they may be unable to get their work done during the rest of their week. Cindy asked me, “how do you say no to meeting requests when you have a high need to say yes?”
Cindy, there are three key points to remember when saying no to meeting requests.
1. Meetings can be inefficient. Without a rigorous focus and discipline, meetings can become a waste of time and human resources. Consider all of the meetings you were in last week. How many of these meetings did you leave thinking that the time spent in the meeting was a valuable, productive and an effective use of the participants time? If you answer in the range of 50/50, your meetings are potentially eroding a minimum of ten to fifteen hours of your week. If that’s the case you’ll want to manage this resource more carefully. Success in any endeavor requires utilizing all available resources to the best of your ability, and that includes meetings.
See this post for how to structure Effective Meetings
2. Value Your Time. If you don’t view your time as a precious resource to be guarded like a mother bear guarding her cubs, no one else will either. I’m not suggesting you become a time obsessed zealot tearing through your department removing all vestiges of inefficiency and wasted time. I am suggesting that the time you have available to provide high value to your organization is not infinite. You have a finite amount of time each week and how you allocate your time is as much a mindset as it is a resource allocation technique. Valuing your time changes your perspective as to how best to use it.
3. Less is more. When declining a meeting request that you believe is not the best use of your time and doesn’t contribute value to your team and or department, say less. The most powerful and graceful way to decline a meeting is simply to say, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to attend your meeting. Is there any information I can provide remotely or electronically that will be helpful? If not, can you send me your meeting notes or action items after the meeting and I’ll make sure to address any issues that need my attention.”
Too often, people who have a high need to say yes provide unnecessary explanations that are cumbersome and awkward. They feel guilty for not attending and in turn explain why they can’t attend and why they feel badly for not attending. The best way to say no is to say no in as few words as possible and in as polite a manner as possible.
As a reminder, I have a teleconference scheduled for December 17th at 9:00AM PST. It will outline the 13 principles transformational leaders use to create extraordinary results. You can learn more and register with this link.
That’s it ladies and gentlemen. I hope you have a great week and I’ll see you here next week.