This week a few people asked for my advice and expertise regarding some projects. In one case, I told the individual that what they needed for their project was an in-person or screen-sharing consultation because it would involve visual, hands-on work. The individual got back to me with a quick response that they had a really busy schedule and that they’d be available by phone.
In this case, I wasn’t establishing boundaries for my own work-life balance or learning how to say ‘no’ to people asking for too much of my time. Instead, I offered more of my time and effort in the name of doing the project correctly: I was asserting that for this specific stage, the meeting had to be both auditory and visual with live editing (it is a visual project and in this case no one has impaired hearing or vision). This means we had to be in person or use online software to communicate effectively.
I have decided to call this principle “asserting my expertise” because in this case, someone with little understanding of the appropriate process for a specific type of project was trying to set the terms of the process. I needed to step in and assert my expertise. And, I did. I replied to the individual that I could not be involved in the project if the meeting were not on the terms necessary to complete the project successfully.
My mentor sent me an article called “22 Ways to Say No” in which the author lists ways to say no to adding a task that would not be in line with your priorities.
- Encouragement. Saying “I feel you can do this on your own.” You encourage the person to do something they think they need you to do by showing confidence in their ability to find the answer or finish the project.
- Principles. If the task is not in line with your values, you can say so as a matter of principle. “According to my experience, doing that will not be worth the investment of time.” Or, “I don’t do that sort of thing as a matter of principle” (if it is a moral issue).
- Priorities. You can let people know, “I can’t take on new commitments right now, otherwise my existing priorities will suffer.” It shows you want to perform well at what you do, and that person cannot ask you to sacrifice your job or project for theirs.
- Meet half way. As a rejection, offer a “cheap alternative,” such as “Frank, I’m terribly sorry I can’t assist you during that meeting. However, I could review your presentation slides in advance.”
If you want to know more ways to say no, read the rest of Evomend’s article here.
My mentor sent me an article from T+D called “Our Inexpert Judgment of Expertise” by Catherine Lombardozzi. There are 18 determinants of expertise, according to Lombardozzi: six are objective and twelve are subjective.
- Has qualifications required
- Has education necessary
- Has been trained in his area of expertise
- Has knowledge about her field
- Has knowledge specific to his field
- Conducts research related to her field
- Is self-assured
- Is charismatic
- Has self-confidence
- Can deduce things easily from work-related situations
- Can assess whether a work-related situation is important
- Is intuitive in her job
- Is an expert who is outgoing
- Is capable of improving herself
- Is able to judge what things are important
- Has the drive to become what she is capable of becoming in her field
- Is ambitious about her work
- Can talk her way through any work-related situation
According to Lombardozzi it is not only important to have the expertise, but to project those subjective factors that underscore the perception of expertise. She notes that self-assured people may give the impression that they have more expertise than they do. This is important to consider “when making selection decisions or assessing performance.” I see this often in my field, that perceptions drive selection and assessment at times over the actual objective descriptors. It goes both ways. Some favor the outgoing individuals, whose confidence affects the perception, and some favor the quiet, introverted, even antisocial individuals, who seem even more like innovative geniuses because of the quiet lives they live.
The point is to be wise in our judgments of expertise. I think I have focused my vision for myself as a thought leader a little too much on the subjective side; I want to make sure I have all the objective descriptors.
Two weeks ago my mentor and I discussed balance. A few tactics to keeping balance:
- Check in with yourself
- Have a system
- Once balance is gained, maintain it
- Say no
- Don’t fill up the schedule again after cleaning it out
- Take some things off the list once the list is created
What is the bigger picture? Being a thought leader. What does that mean for the work I do? Who am I aiming to be? I cannot move each grain of sand (if sand = things to do), so what is more important than the grains? The emphasis, from my mentor: “You can’t keep trying to complete all the details in your list or you’re going to make yourself sick.”
Balance and Vision
I learned I need to refocus on the strategy and ask myself:
- Where am I trying to go?
- What would a thought leader do?
- What is the best use of my time and energy?
My mentor said something very important that stuck with me. He said self-confidence leads to being balanced. Confidence is a common element for the characteristics of my vision.
- Respectful and respected: how can people respect a person who doesn’t respect his or herself?
- Enabling and vulnerable: I am willing to share my failures for teaching purposes if I am confident that those failures do not make me “a failure.”
- Relaxed with harnessed passion: A self-confident person can relax because they believe in themselves. My anxiety peaks when I’m not sure of myself.