Debra Dinnocenzo discusses the challenges and importance of Saying NO to protect focus, priorities, and productivity. Dinnocenzo offers reasons why Saying YES to NO is critical in light of the daily grind faced by leaders and teams with endless priorities, conflicting demands, and insufficient time and resources to do everything that needs to be done – and to do it well. Leaders in hybrid/remote environments have a particular challenge to be on alert for signs of distress, frustration, and disengagement that can result from the demands placed on their team members. Therefore, creating a culture supportive of Saying NO is essential for remote leaders who must explore alternative ways to achieve the desired outcome and keep the focus on positive problem resolution. Learn why we all need a Stop Doing list instead of just having a To-Do list.

Schedule a call with Debra HERE

About the Host:

Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space. As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course.

Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting, coaching, and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author. 

Debra is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.

Schedule a call with Debra HERE

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Debra Dinnocenzo:

Hello, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. We're all bombarded with multiple opportunities to be distracted from our key focus areas. And I suffer from this as well. So I come from a place of really understanding this. For many people, it's a daily challenge to avoid the tasks, events, projects, as well as involvement in interesting and meaningful activities that will slowly erode energy and focus. It seems that we all face challenges like these, and the relentless demands of our jobs, and our lives exacerbate this, leading to overwork, disappointment, frustration, and in some cases, depression and anxiety, and a whole host of other problems, physical, emotional, psychological, that erode our productivity, and our sense of peace. So it's important to be more mindful of our ability to achieve our priorities. Interestingly, I wrote about the need to and the challenge of saying no, in my first book, 101 tips for telecommuters, which was published in 1999. Erosion of focus was a challenge a real challenge for early teleworkers. Sometimes were more vulnerable to requests or expectations from family, friends and co workers, due to misperceptions about our availability. As I mentioned, this has historically been a challenge for people who work from home without family, friends and neighbors, really understanding that they're actually working when they're at home. This has been somewhat less of an issue as work from home has dramatically increased in recent years, and there's more understanding of what that really means, and what's really going on when people work from home. But there are still distractions from both others and ourselves that can compromise our productivity and our satisfaction. When we work from home, it's much easier for family and friends, not only to interrupt, but to ask for your help your involvement, your input. After all, you're right there. That won't take that long and is it more time with your family one of the advantages of remote work. Conversely, team members may think that working from home leaves you with more availability and extra time to interact with colleagues. While involvement with both family and co workers is a good thing. It's critical that you resist any temptation or pressure to be involved at the expense of your productivity. At the same time, you must be careful not to turn down every request for help, especially from coworkers, whose help you may count on at times. As I talk and work with leaders and teams across a range of organizations and industries, it seems that the problems of focus erosion have only gotten worse. Much of this seems to stem from too many areas of focus, endless priorities, conflicting demands, and insufficient time and resources to do everything that needs to be done. And to do it well. It's really a common theme and one I hear more resoundingly in the current environment of tight budgets, limited travel, and increased demands for productivity. The expanding hybrid workplace adds to the complexity of achieving results, sorting out priorities, meeting expectations, and leading for superior performance. Communication is more convoluted, it takes more time and effort requires more intentional actions on the part of leaders and team members. This calls for even more awareness greater awareness of priorities critical actions necessary to achieve results at an organizational level. And on a personal level, it's vital that each of us ensure our own focus that aligns with our priorities, both professional and personal. This is about more than work life balance. But I always include a reminder about this when I do workshops, or Keynote presentations on work life balance. And the key takeaway from my presentations is this. If you're waiting for your organization to give you work life balance, you'll be dead before that happens. My message really is we each need to take personal responsibility for the priorities, the boundaries, the choices, and the protection of focus that is important to each of us. And so today, I offer you a few thoughts about saying yes to No. When faced with a request, or demand or an opportunity to involve yourself in anything that may detract from your major areas of focus, this is the time to consider if saying yes to No, is a good idea. Jim Collins, the author of the book, Good to Great talks about the need to think beyond our to do list. And Collins points out that while we all have to do this, we don't remember that we should also have a stop doing list. So what should go on your stop doing list? Well, that really depends on what you need to let go to delegate to stop worrying about or to make the choice to say no to you might consider a few things. As you ponder, what should get added to your stop doing list? And perhaps just say no. For example, if the activity that's been proposed, or that you have the opportunity to get involved in is insignificant in importance and unrelated to your priorities, just say no. If the request for your involvement results in time out of your office, during regular work hours, or time in the office, when you shouldn't be there, just say no. If the event or activity or project could occur at a more appropriate or convenient time, just say no. If it's a classic, nice to do, but not necessary, or valuable to either your personal or professional objectives. Just say no. And these don't have to be things that other people necessarily ask you to do. But we put a lot of demands on ourselves. For things that we want to do with things we've always done or things we've done the way we've done them for a long time. And it's important to stop and think about, is there something I can stop doing in the way that I do it? Or what I actually do? Another one is this the request or demand is rooted in an intended guilt trip? Just say no.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

If someone else is available to do it, or can do it better than you just say, No, this is a problem for really skilled people who often are told but you know, you do this so well, we need you to do it. Or sometimes we don't trust that other people can do things as well as we think we can do them. This is a big challenge for new leaders who are really exceptional in the end the technical side of a department or a function and feel like they can do it best or that they should do it and they don't want to put any more on their team members. And then they are the ones that end up feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Oh another thought is if the investment of your time has really no payoff in terms of your current or future career goals, and holds no intrinsic personal will reward just say no. If you'll be miserable the whole time you're doing it, just say no. And if you'll hate yourself for agreeing to do it, just say no. Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't step up when there's a real need or that we don't help when it's necessary. This is about being more conscious about the activities, the demands, and the expectations that erode your focus your priorities, your productivity, and the sense of control over your life and your time. And this is also about reminding leaders who know and need much of this in their own lives, to be mindful of helping their team members with the caring, the empathy, and the solution focused coaching, when team members need to say no. Leaders in hybrid and remote environments have a particular challenge to be on alert for signs of distress, frustration, and disengagement that can result from the demands placed on their team members, many of whom are working remotely or in a hybrid environment. I call this listening between the lines, listening between the lines of what is said and what is written. This requires really a more concentrated effort at really hearing and listening for those signs of concern and frustration and, and worry and exasperation. And then leaders must be proactive in responding to those calls for support and calls for help, which may mean giving permission to saying no, and working to find solutions, that that meet the needs of both the team member, the whole team and the organization. When there's a culture that supports saying no, it guides people to say no gently and offer reasons why you can't help or take on more work or volunteer for another project. exploring alternative ways to achieve the desired outcome keeps the focus on positive problem resolution. And often there's a good and viable and sometimes better solution. As you think about your own stop doing list, and opportunities, you have to say no. Here are a few final thoughts I'll leave with you and some action steps to get started on your stop doing list. The first is to remember to assess the activities or projects or demands or expectations or opportunities you're involved in over the demands you face. And consider which ones are appropriate, useful, essential or enjoyable. It's also important to reevaluate your willingness to continue involvement based on your assessment and determine if any of them should just be cleared off your plate or altered in such a way that they take less time or demand less energy. I would encourage you to think about what steps you can take now to begin uninvolved in yourself in anything that should really be on your stop doing list. And finally, I would encourage you to Promise yourself that in the future, you'll commit to a more rigorous analysis. before committing to one more thing. Consider the pros and cons. And think clearly about whether the demands on your time are a half to a one, two, or a need to investment of your time