What’s the hardest short word to say in the English language?

A moving GIF showing a basic 3 ball-cascade ju...

A moving GIF showing a basic 3 ball-cascade juggling pattern: good for juggling explanation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a short-term success strategy, going round saying yes to everything is hard to beat. Not only that, but it’s infectious as the more you get a reputation for saying yes, the more things come your way to say yes to. The guy asking you to do something walks away happy because he has someone to do his thing. You feel happy because you feel respected and liked.

But the worse thing you can do is to say yes to things and then not follow through. If you have too many balls in the air, then that’s what tends to happen. You’ve said yes to so much stuff that you can’t give any of them the attention they deserve. You end up half doing everything.

A better success strategy is to focus on the important things that you should be doing in your role and succeed at those so that the company prospers.

The first thing to ask when someone asks you to do something is should someone else be doing this. I’m not suggesting getting all slopey shouldered, but if you have a help desk, why is this person coming to you for help. If you have a sales force, why are they coming to you asking you to go out and sell something. In a small company it’s different, because everyone does anything. Any kind of scalable endeavour cannot rely on a hero culture.

They must be asking you because they know you can do it. But if someone else should be doing it, the crucial question is why. It could be because they lack confidence. It could be because they don’t know how to do the thing in question. It could be because they are lazy. Whatever the reason, the person in front of you wants help. Of course you can help him, but that doesn’t fix the problem. And guess where he’ll come next time.

The next question to ask is what needs to happen for the right person to do the job next time? And plan to put steps in place to make it happen.

How many times has someone come up to you late in the day because they have a demo / meeting / Powerpoint to get done / document they need (delete as appropriate). If someone does this to me, I try to establish whether this is something that has really come out of the blue or whether they knew about it some time ago. If it’s the former, I’ll help, assuming I don’t have my own personal emergency to take care of, but point out that I might be busy / on holiday / in a meeting next time and they really need to let me know as soon as possible so that together we can plan when it will happen.

If they make a habit of it, then it’s obvious which short word to use next; NO!

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