Learning to say no

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Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

Did you survive the soap opera-style cliffhanger we left you with last month? Build you up to a level of pure excitement and hope, sitting there thinking the answers to all your problems were on the next line and, no, there was just a full stop?

Perhaps that’s a little melodramatic — I live with two drama queens so please excuse me.
However, we experience cliffhangers in our businesses as well on a regular basis. Things such as deadlines not being met, materials not turning up, staff being late and the big one — payments (“cheque is in the post mate, honest”).

So life’s full of the ups and downs which all add to the issue we discussed last month — that of vanishing time.

If you set a plan and it gets disrupted by a cliffhanger moment then quite often the timing of the plan goes out the window, putting pressure on everything else around you.

So what’s the answer to this ever-increasing phenomenon of disappearing time or, technically worded — “bugger, that day went fast”.

Well, it’s simple, and it only takes a two letter word — No. You may want to add a sorry after it, but saying no to stuff stops your day being over-full, and allows you time to get the remainder of the tasks finished.

Okay, how many of you have just thrown the mag down, followed by a word that could have been an adjective, noun or even a verb, and stated this geezer gets paid the big bucks for that sort of advice?

It’s true, we earn the $19.50 an hour for stating the obvious, but think about it. The only reason the time runs out is we try and do too much, so saying no to stuff will help.

All right, let’s now look at the real picture — can we really say no to somebody in today’s pressure-filled, want everything yesterday world we live in?

Your fear is if you say no then the client will go to somebody who will say yes and we will lose them. So we say “yeah, no problem”, and then panic about it.

There is that very true statement — “under promise and over deliver”. But the majority of business people do the opposite, and over promise and under deliver. This is rife in the trades sector.

How many times have you heard somebody say “he said he would be here at 3pm on Thursday, and it’s now Monday and we have not heard a word”. Or, “it was only supposed to take four weeks and we are now into the seventh week — and look, still no windows”.

The power of over delivering is absolutely phenomenal when it comes to referrals. “He said he would be here at 3pm, turned up half an hour early and the gas was back on ready to start dinner — it was awesome.”

The point is that saying no will help your time-strapped life — but it’s hard to say the word and let people down, or watch a potential cheque walk out the door.

So say yes — but be realistic with it. “No worries, of course we can add an extra 68 square metres to your walk-in wardrobe Ms Bucket (pronounced Bouquet). But if we do that today your triple shower, two bath, two toilet suite will not be finished by five. Are you happy if we start it next Tuesday?” Then start it Monday, and old Bucket will love you forever.

There are some other tips for making the time go slower, so see you next month for part three. But in the meantime, practice the word no — perhaps not to her indoors though. And always remember the under-promise over-deliver theory — it really does work.