As a manager you are constantly being asked to do things - by your boss, by one of your fellow managers, by the head of another department, by one of your staff.
Your working life is a constant bombardment of requests coming from all quarters.
Your boss will ask you for a quick report on something or other in time for his upcoming meeting with the directors or his visit to see overseas customers. The report is, of course, very urgent.
Or you will be asked to give a presentation about some aspect of your department's work to colleagues elsewhere in the company. It will be an important communication between departments and will result in good publicity for you, your team, and its work.
Naturally you will receive numerous invitations to attend meetings at which your presence is needed.
And undoubtedly your fellow managers will contact you to ask small favours such as giving their particular request higher priority than others, or diverting a resource to a different project to speed that up at the expense of another. Needless to say, meeting your colleague's request is 'vital to the company'.
All these demands come on top of your habitual tasks such as progressing new projects, planning the budgets, studying the market and your competitors, organising your staff, reviewing their progress, and planning their training. And of course there are always the special requests from members of your staff to meet you to discuss some personal grievance or other problem.
The list goes on and on.
If you let this constant barrage of requests get on top of you, you will be ground down under the weight of them. There will be no end to them. Your work and that of your department will suffer.
You must learn to say NO.
There is a limit to what any individual or team can accomplish in a given time and it is your job as manager to set that limit. It is up to you to stay in control. It is too easy to always say yes, especially to your boss.
Everyone admires a 'can do' attitude. Nobody likes someone to says 'no' to everything. But people also like to see results. They don't want just promises. They want to see the job successfully completed. It is totally counterproductive to promise more than you can deliver. If you do, then eventually you won't be asked any more. Your reputation and that of your team will be gone forever.
So, be realistic. Define your limits. Draw the line. Sort out the core tasks that you have to do at all costs and give them priority. Then see what else you can do. Stick to your decision. Explain why.
You will soon be seen to be a reliable operator. Others will trust your judgement. They will learn that when you say you will do a job you really will do it, and on time. And when you say that you cannot do the job they will accept your word, because they will know that you are not just making excuses.
Your reputation and that of your team will be established.
(c) Copyright 2004
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Arthur Cooper is a writer and publisher.
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