If you’re a manager and you happen to have a tendency to take on so many projects that both you and your team end up scrambling, then read on. This article is for you.
Learning to acknowledge and respect your own limits of what you can handle without being in a constant state of stress and anxiety will not only make your life easier – it will make you a better manager.
To help better illustrate this concept, let’s think for a moment of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of interactions with someone who doesn’t set boundaries well.
Have you ever known one of those people who tell you that they want to set up a time to meet up with you, whether for a friendly coffee or a business meeting, only to find that no matter how many times this idea comes up, a date to meet is never chosen.
You might check in a few weeks down the road and when you ask to set up a time to meet, you’re met with an exuberant “Yeah, I can’t wait! Really looking forward to meeting up with you!!!” And then when it again comes to setting a date, you’re faced with radio silence.
They simply don’t answer.
I see this happen a lot, both in personal interactions and in work settings. People who seem truly well‑intentioned, but who promise waaaay more than what they can actually do. When it boils down to it, you can never pin them down to commit.
The reality is that it can be really tough to know where exactly our limits lie and to communicate those effectively to those around us.
I mean, I get it. I’ve been that person – so excited fo a new idea, that I commit to it before I’ve really even had a chance to reflect on whether or not this new commitment will be feasible in my schedule.
But think of what that experience is like for the person who’s constantly being let down.
Let’s think of this now in terms of effective leadership
Managers are constantly being pulled in a million different directions. You’re often caught managing competing priorities within your team, across teams, and often, across the whole organization.
I’ve seen all too often situations where a manager is asked to either provide support to a new initiative themselves, or to have their team members do so. Often, the request is accompanied by an assumption that the request will be granted.
Feeling pressure to comply to be a “good team player”, the manager often acquiesces, even if they know that their team is already squeezed with their current obligations.
I’ve also seen situations where managers commit to something to support their team members, such as weekly meetings, but then find themselves having to constantly push back that commitment due to other competing priorities. Last minute meetings that are deemed more important replace the already scheduled meetings with team members.
And listen… life happens, schedules change and sometimes, there are true emergencies to be dealt with.
But when you find these types of scenarios happening time and time again, it might be time to see it as a red flag that it’s time to think about doing differently.
When you don’t set limits on your time and commitments, or when you don’t communicate these clearly to others, people eventually start to lose trust in you.
Let’s go back to my example about that friend who always wants to do coffee, but never sets a date to actually have coffee with you. You eventually just understand that their words don’t hold any meaning, don’t you?
Their promises are empty and you know it.
Well, the same is true when we keep making empty promises to our teams.
It’s much better to let someone know outright that you can’t commit to something, than to commit but never prioritize your time in a way that respects that commitment.
So how can I become more intentional in my commitments?
1. Don’t just reflexively say yes. Take a moment to consider where your priorities lie and whether or not what you’re committing to is aligned with your priorities.
2. Take a serious hard look at your agenda. This is not solely about what you want to do, or wish you could do, but about what you can realistically commit to doing well in the time available.
3. Make some hard decisions about what you’re going to say no to.
4. Communicate these messages consistently to those affected.
5. Re-assess as the situation evolves. Just because you had to say no to something one month doesn’t mean it has to be off the table forever.
Although you may get initial push back to your “no”, as people start to learn that your “yes” can be trusted, they’ll start to respect you a lot more.
The leaders who are looked up to the most are the ones who can make hard decisions when needed and who can have difficult conversations in a way that is both direct and kind.
If you can do this, people will follow your leadership because they’ll trust that when that you say you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it.
Try it out. The next time someone asks something of you, stop and think about what’s truly realistic before you commit.
If you’re looking to become a leader that everyone wants to follow, take a peek at my quiz that will help you determine if you have the communication skills needed to be promoted to a leadership position. You’ll also receive a few tips to help you on your leadership journey.
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