When you’re a team member or an employee, you are usually a yes-man: you say yes to almost everything your leader or employer asks from you. Even when you’re struggling to finish the tasks, in fear of being seen as weak or never getting another opportunity again, you continue to say yes. But how do you exactly tell your leader that you can’t do it because you’re already swamped? How can you say no because you’re already stretched thin and you don’t want things to fall through the crack? Host John Laurito prefers to be told the truth rather than expect good results and gets disappointed as a leader himself. Listen in and learn how to approach situations like these at work.
[0:58] Thanksgiving travels
[4:56] When you’re already stretched thin
[8:03] Be conscious when you’re taking responsibility
[10:05] Communication is essential
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership. Obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large for the last 20 years. Today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Loretto and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic. What makes the best leader so good? Welcome to tomorrow’s leader!
John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Laurito, your host today with another great episode.
John Welcome back, first of all, from Thanksgiving. I hope you had some fantastic time to rest and recharge and spend great quality time with family and friends and eat lots of food. I know I did for sure, but it was seriously a fantastic holiday. Kudos to my sister and brother-in-law for putting together a dynamite Thanksgiving, so all I had to do was go over and eat. That’s it. That was it. That was my job, and I did it really, really well. I’ve got to say, very proud of myself.
John So this kind of pertains to Thanksgiving. I know many of you had to travel. You might have had to drive a long distance. I talked to some people who drove hours and hours to spend time with your family, which I respect immensely. I’ve done that before. I remember a Thanksgiving, several years back, driving from Boston to down here, North Carolina, in the middle of the night. And it was hellacious. But it was well worth it just to get down with family for a kind of last-minute plan for Thanksgiving.
John So I know the stresses, sometimes, of travel like that, but I want you to just imagine something. So you’re traveling, you’re taking a trip that’s three hours, and you get in the car. You look at the GPS and you verify, OK, this is a three-hour trip based on, you know, normal traffic conditions and all that kind of stuff. I have to be where I’m trying to get to at three. You leave at 12. So you let your party, your family, whoever know. Yeah, we’re on track. Looks like we’re going to be there at three o’clock.
John Even if I know where I’m going, I still put the GPS on. I have this habit because I just like the updates. I like to know, OK, what’s my ETA? I’m just kind of maniacal about that. And now with GPS, it gives traffic updates, and all that kind of stuff, and reroutes you and figures out, you know, the best way, fastest way, most direct way, cheapest way, whatever way you want.
John But I want you to picture just driving, beginning that journey. About 15 minutes into that journey, you hit just nonstop, standstill traffic. I mean, like the type of traffic that you just do not see an end in sight. Now you’re sitting there for five minutes, which turns to 10, 15, 20, 30. You’re now in this traffic jam for half an hour now. At this point, would you communicate to the people, the family, that you are not going to be there at three o’clock? And I want you to think about this. For some of you out there, this may be an easy answer. For some, it may not, because there are some people that say, You know what? I don’t care. I’m going to figure out a way to keep on track and somehow make up some time.
John Now, in reality, if this is a three-hour trip and I’m 45 minutes in, and half an hour of that has been standstill traffic. It is extremely unlikely that I’m going to get there by three o’clock. Now, if it’s me, I call my relatives. I sent them a text, whatever, and let them know. I don’t send a text if I’m driving, yes, I know. But I let them know, Hey, it’s not going to be three o’clock. It’s probably going to be more like 3:30. Hit a traffic jam this and that. And most of the time, hey, listen, that’s understandable. That happens, especially on Thanksgiving. But there are some people that say, No, I don’t.
John Now, let’s say that you are now in the midst of your trip. You get through the traffic, and your relatives call you and say, Hey, can you do us a big favor? We literally forgot the stuffing and we have no stuffing for Thanksgiving. Would you mind doing us a favor and making a detour? There’s a place that specializes in stuffing, the world’s best stuffing, it’s called the stuffing store, the world-renowned stuffing store. Can you stop at this place? I know it’s a little detour. It’s out of your way. It’s not the normal way you take. It’s kind of probably be half an hour out of your way. But would you please? Would you mind doing this?
John OK, now I’m already half an hour late. This detour is going to make me an hour late. But of course, yeah, sure. No problem. I’m going to do that. No problem. But my arrival time is now pushed back another half hour.
John Why do I bring this stuff up? Here’s the reason I bring this up. I was talking to somebody recently… Oftentimes, and I want you to just think about a normal work situation, where you have been given certain a project, let’s say. That project has a deadline, and there are certain things that you are expected to do. You need to understand that you need to deliver a successful outcome or get this project completed by this certain date. Maybe you get to present it to the board, you get it, whatever it is. But you have this specific deadline.
John What I oftentimes find is that people are on track for a certain project or deadline. And in reality, there is then something else that’s added onto their plate that is going to make it near impossible to meet that deadline without compromising something else. For example, if I’m working and putting, you know, 50 percent of my time on this project here and the other 50 percent of the time is on leading my staff, or my team, or whatever the case may be. If this project suddenly is going to require 60 or 70 percent of my time, that’s going to impact my ability to do the other stuff, to lead my team, to do the other things that I’m actually in charge of doing. Now what I find is a lot of times people are given more stuff that’s put on their plate. They’ve got more responsibility and they are unwilling to communicate to their leader that their estimated time of arrival is going to change, or that their delivery of this project is going to be changed.
John And I bring this up because I was there in this situation. I remember being consciously thinking, Listen, I do not want to tell my leader that I’m overloaded and that I’m going to struggle to get this done or not going to be because I felt he or she would feel that I’m or see me as weak. Hey, you know what? Lerato can’t handle that. He can’t take on more stuff. And then I thought that they would not only think that, but then they’d give that extra worker that opportunity or that project is somebody else. And I wanted to be the person that did as much as possible, and it just was part of my goals. I wanted to have my hands in as much as possible. But in reality, I was doing everybody a disservice. I was doing myself a disservice because by taking on that extra work and responsibility that I truly could not handle because I was already stretched thin, I was now faced with knowing that I was going to have to let down someone somewhere, whether it’s me or somebody else because I was not going to be able to do my other tasks. It was just impossible.
John But instead of communicating that, I just kept that to myself, and all that did was add stress, a significant amount of stress to my plate, and my work was compromised. My ability to produce and be effective and as successful as possible was compromised. It was hampered. I was just not able to do that. So my point is you’re best off when you’re in that situation and I know you have been everybody has been in periods of time where you are asked.
John Now, maybe you’re the CEO, maybe you’re the top person in your organization. And for those of you who are leading teams, I ask you to think about this from the other standpoint, but you have to be very conscious of when you are taking on more responsibility. What is the impact? It’s not necessarily that you will be able to absorb all this extra work and just work more hours. There’s a capacity limit that everybody has, and just working more hours is not always the answer because there are drawbacks to that. There are consequences to that. That takes away from my focus, my ability to rest and recharge and be as effective in these other areas. So it’s not just a matter of stacking on hours.
John So if I’m in that situation, I need to communicate to my leaders, to my boss, and it simply can be a question of, Hey, I’m more than happy to take this project on. But if I do, I want to be clear that there’s a couple of options or results of this. One is if I take this project on, this means the project, the other Project A that’s due on December 15th. I will not be able to get that done in that timeframe. It will mean extending that a week, or it will mean that I will not be able to do Project C or start that for another week or two. OK, either one of those I can do if I absorb what you’re just talking to me about. But where would you like me to compensate? That kind of conversation at least lets the leader understand what’s happening here, right? Because then they, he or she can make a decision as to whether or not, OK, is it worth me giving this project to you and having those situations arise where that deadline is missed or the other project can’t be started on time? Okay.
John Bottom line is communication is essential. You have to communicate. And again, I was that person that said, Hey, listen, I’m not going to tell anybody when I’m at my capacity because I think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s not. I’ve been a leader for many, many years, and I wanted to know from my people what ultimately was their true capacity. I did not look at it as a sign of weakness. What I actually looked at as a sign of weakness, was the inability to tell me when somebody was at their capacity because I realized that everybody has a tipping point, so to speak. And if you put too much on somebody’s plate, at some point they’re going to drop that plate or they’re going to fall over or something negative is going to happen no matter what. So it did no good to me, to the company, to the organization, to that person if they did not communicate to me when they felt like they were at capacity.
John Now, if I was giving something to somebody, it meant that I had confidence in them. If I didn’t have confidence in them, I wouldn’t have given them a project or assignment or responsibility or additional scope or role or anything like that. So part of it is realizing, Hey, your leader is giving you this for a reason. He or she thinks highly of you. Now the other part of that is you’ve got to communicate and make sure your expectations are aligned. So just the thought. I wanted to share that quick lesson with you. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
John When you feel that you are taking on something that is not feasible without compromising or taking away from other areas, you have to let your supervisor, your leader, your boss know that. And as the leader, you have to ask for that. You’ve got to set that tone with all of your people so that you can manage workloads and manage your teams effectively and lead your teams effectively. So that’s today’s lesson. I hope that was helpful, valuable, get the wheels turning for you.
John As always, I greatly appreciate your ideas for future topics and guests and questions that you may have. I appreciate greatly your liking, subscribing, sharing, and going down below and giving a five star review. Thanks. Appreciate your time. Bye.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Once again, that’s John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, Lead On.