Saying no is the new yes

Today I want to share a great article by Tony Schwarz at The Energy Project on productivity and prioritization. On March 18, I took Tony’s challenge to take back my lunch for the rest of the month. I got so much out of it that I am not continuing well into April with my full hour long lunch breaks daily, usually offsite in a beautiful location such as the beach, the mountains, or the park. (I love living and working in Santa Cruz since each of these is only 5 minutes away.) I’ve been coming back from lunch full of energy and thinking clearly. People have remarked that I seem relaxed amidst the chaos.

In this article on saying no, Tony urges us to break the vicious cycle of the “madness loop” of back-to-back meetings, endless email, and putting out fires and instead take time to pause, reflect and prioritize.

Tony says, “We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves “What’s next?” far more often than we do “Why this?” He also quotes Ghandi: “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

I’ll let you read the rest of the article at the Harvard Business Review Blog. Thank you to The Management Center for sharing this in your newsletter this week!

Now it’s time for me to take my lunch break.

Three signs of a miserable job

infographic lencioni

This week I’ve been reading leadership fable writer Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”. It’s not as depressing as the title makes it out to be, although I have received a few weird looks or comments from people who saw me reading it.

Lencioni outlines three factors that influence employee satisfaction. When people are happy at work, they do better work.

Being Known/Anonymity: When people know their coworkers, they are more fulfilled. People spend a lot of time at work, and they want to be known and appreciated by their manager and coworkers for who they are outside of work as well.

Relevance/Irrelevance: Who does your work matter to? If you are on the front line, your work matters to your customers. If you are a manager, your work matters to your employees. People need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just their boss.

Measurement/Immeasurement: How do you measure your contribution and your progress? We are not talking about indirect measurements for the company, but measurements of individual contribution. People need to be able to gauge how they are doing each day.

Here is an infographic from Lencioni’s site on the three measures of job satisfaction.

Two bottles of water and 75 cents: generosity breeds generosity

Generosity breeds generosity.

This is one lesson that stuck with me from SEOmom Gillian Muessig at the MIVA conference last weekend.

Evan Fishkin, her son, echoed this same lesson in his presentation on SEO. You share more, you get more.

On the train to Tucson after the conference with Josh, I contemplated this lesson. We arrived in Tucson at midnight, and I was thirsty. A woman was fumbling with her wallet in front of the drink machine, looking for a single so she could buy a soda.

“Do you have five 1’s?” she asked me.

“No, I only have four” I said as I brushed past her to purchase a bottle of water.

I put in a dollar and 25 cents and pushed the button, but the water was sold out. I pressed the return button, but it didn’t give me my change back–it only beckoned with a choice of soda, which I did not want. It also asked me for an extra 25 cents. Should I buy a soda that I didn’t want or walk away and leave my money in the machine? The lady was still in the lobby, asking people for change.

“Hey, you can have a soda, there’s already money in the machine,” I offered.

By now she had found five singles, so she put her dollar in. I got 75 cents back, and she got a soda for only a dollar. Win-win.

We took a taxi to our hotel. The driver was exceptionally kind. In the eight mile ride, he shared with us his philosophy on life, his spiritual beliefs, and his religious practices. He didn’t charge us the 15-minute wait time when he was parked waiting for our luggage at the train station. I pulled out the fare and a modest $1 tip. Then I saw an extra dollar in my wallet and I thought of the lesson on generosity–why not. I got the extra dollar out and handed it to him too.

By now it was almost 1AM, and I was really thirsty. We checked into the hotel, put our luggage in our room, and I headed to the vending machine with my last dollar. Luckily the water only cost $1 here instead of $1.25 because it’s all I had left with the extra dollar I had given the taxi driver. I put the money in the machine and pressed the button: a water came out. Then the machine made a bunch of noise and a second water came out!

You share more, you get more.

With my $4, I could have lost a $1 at the train station, tipped the driver $1, spent $1 to get a water in the evening, and inevitably spent another $1 on a second water in the morning when I was thirsty again.

Instead, I bought a woman a soda, tipped the driver $2, and got two waters.

Win-win, win-win, win-win.

When was your last win-win situation? What has been your experience of “generosity breeds generosity” at work or in life?

How to Say “No” at Work

We had a great conversation at our offsite last Tuesday on the importance of being able to take on a reasonable workload, avoid overwork and burnout, and to know when to say “no”. There are both more and less effective ways of saying “no”, especially to your manager. It is generally not a good idea to “Just say no,” but instead to let your manager know your priorities and what the sacrifice would be if you did this new project instead. 
Here is a resource from Forbes (in pictures!) on how to say “no” at work that explains this technique and others.