No & Help
These two words can dramatically impact the success of your career, business and quality of life. First try to ignore your brain’s initial perception of the words themselves.
Repeat after me “No is not a dirty word.” Early in my career the CEO and founder of the technology firm where I worked said this to me on our elevator ride out of the building one day. He had entered the elevator, calm, cheerful and ready to take on the weekend. While I was buried in my email, phone buzzing away all while I fished for my keys so I could go and pick up equipment we needed for a weekend project. He explained that sometimes it is better to say no, than to take on something that doesn’t quite fit into your wheelhouse, overload your schedule or step outside of your delivery comfort zone. Even if it’s for an important client. What’s more important to the business and what drives a higher quality of life is focus and execution. As we walked through the building doors, he looks over and says “Say it.” I reluctantly repeated “No is not a dirty word” pausing for a second to really think about it. He smiled, and walked away wishing me a good weekend.
When I got into my car, I began to think about my week. How many of the meetings, projects and tasks could have been more appropriately scheduled, delegated or just plain denied? What other work, business development or client satisfaction goals could have been met with just a little more bandwidth to focus?
It is normal to feel compelled to help with nearly everything co-workers or clients ask for. Realizing that it’s not expected, and sharing honest reasons for saying no is a completely normal course of action. But overburdening yourself, wearing your team too thin, and not making time to concentrate of the basic needs of your business is a recipe for disaster. So, one more time, please repeat after me “No is not a dirty word.” Look at your schedule today, this week, or upcoming month. Are there projects, meetings or looming deadlines hanging over your head? Maybe some are there because we couldn’t say no? It’s ok, here’s where the second part of our lesson comes in.
Help. A word that we associate with situations that include fire, drowning victims, generally horrible and scary circumstances. In actuality help is a word we should be using on nearly a daily basis. None of us truly understand the power of the human condition, or expanse of our own network until we use this word.
Help isn’t just for emergencies, it’s for collaboration, cooperation, evolution and adaptation. Why bang your head against the wall trying to solve a problem for days, while you relay empty excuses to the client or awaiting parties? Just ask for help. Smoke signal, Facebook, Linked In, Google, You Tube, text, call, email whatever way you feel comfortable reaching out, just do it. Sitting around waiting for a miracle to fall from the sky isn’t going to make it happen. Worse, sitting alone stewing about a problem, wallowing in your own self-doubt, pity or projects only compounds your feelings of despair and desperation. Being a business owner, independent professional or working in an environment where you are isolated a majority of the time makes it easy to get lost in work, forgetting how many wonderful people there are in this world that would be happy to help you. All you have to do is ask.
Asking for help expands your base of knowledge, strengthens existing skills, educates us about new tools and gives us a chance to connect with people. You just have to know where to look and say “Could someone please help me with this? Anyone have any thoughts? I am looking for a mentor to help guide me through my first case. Nearly every single Bar Association or Professional Group has a mentor program, list serve, maybe even a library of help videos. Your LinkedIn network, You Tube Videos, Alumni committee these are just a few of the places you can turn to for easy, accessible and most likely free help.
What’s in it for the other person? How honored would you be if a young attorney called you late in your career? Your practice is winding down, working your way toward retirement when you get a message from a recent Bar graduate looking for a mentor. Ecstatic! A chance to share your experience with someone who’s just getting started offers a fun and engaging way to break up your week. Even better, you’re growing your practice and you hear from an ambitious young attorney that needs a partner firm to help with a case that’s outside of their practice area! Let the conversation begin.
I am always impressed, but never surprised by the outpouring of support and help I see between attorneys and their staff on list serves. Such simple technology, yet so powerful. The ABA’s Solo Sez list serve is probably the most popular free resource… more like lifeline for attorneys everywhere. Post your question, situation or concern and within hours I guarantee you’ll have more responses, suggestions and offers to chat than you’ll know what to do with.
In conclusion: None of us have all of the answers, nor can we be experts at everything. So as we embark into the New Year make a commitment to yourself to use a lot more no and open yourself up to opportunities to grow by asking for help. Your life will be less stressful, creating room to grow and learn. Most importantly you’ll earn the respect of others through being honest about taking on work, or reaching out to ask for help. It’s a good thing.
Thank you for sharing your day with us!
Have a no or help story to share? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to post below, or share it with me on Twitter @ChelseyLambert.