When it rains it pours. Finding the balance between saying yes and no — Issue #17
How often do we show enthusiasm and initiative by taking on more work than what is in our scope as we’re building up a discipline, team or product? Then there is a tipping point where it starts to become unmanageable. How do we handle such situations?
It happens so often as we’re trying to show our worth as professionals or of our team in the wider organisation.
We may start saying yes to many things to show we are the right people who will bring value to the company.
At first, it’s easily manageable because we have a pretty free agenda. Taking on two or three things is easily controllable because they don’t take up much of our time.
Even the seasoned professional who understands the importance of defining a scope and sticking to it knows that when implementing a new discipline or starting something new, we need to show value as soon as possible.
We take on more than makes sense but it’s still okay.
The tipping point
Just as doubts may be setting in you quickly realise that your time is starting to become more limited.
Suddenly others have seen the value and start adding layers of work and complexities.
You now have no time, you’re shorthanded and you’re doing things you promised you never would.
Even though I’ve seen this happening dozens of times over the years, it still amazes me how consistently it does happen.
It’s similar to the concept when you’re submitting your CV for open positions for two years without much response, then suddenly you have two or three job offers at the same time and you have a hard time picking between them.
In product organisations, this can be particularly complicated, because it often means the value you’ve been struggling to show can slip through you fingers as you lose control.
- You become a blocker.
- Others compare you to previous interactions and don’t understand why you’re being “difficult”
- The team has difficulty scaling and growing properly
Finding the balance
What I suggest is trying to find the right measure of being helpful and strict in what you take on and this can be divided into a few simple principles:
- Define the scope/strategy/vision upfront so that the picture is clear
- Don’t take on anything that doesn’t fit into what you define in point 1
- Even if the scope is huge, make sure to take on what will bring real value to the organisation and team
- Be clear about what you will be taking on fully and what you will be supporting or enabling
- Make sure you’ve thought about how what you’re doing today will scale tomorrow
- Don’t be afraid to push back, but make sure you can justify the why
- If you do step away from something, make sure to set things up so others can easily take over or do it themselves
- When stepping away, be prepared for criticism about your decision and also how you approached the problem in the past
- Say no, but don’t be a blocker.
- If you know who can help unblock a situation, put those people in contact with each. Even if you’re not involved, help others to succeed
We can easily grow from being insecure to show our value to being insecure that we can’t manage it all.
I can’t say when and how this will happen, but if you’re doing your job, it will happen. Just make sure you set yourself up to manage that change and also the rest of the team for success.
If you leave the team hanging, you’ve now removed any value you created initially.
Originally published at https://www.getrevue.co on May 11, 2022.