Managing high performers

Saying No at Work

You know you need to say no to some things. I have an idea about what might be holding you back.

Every day, people want your time, energy, money, expertise… you name it, someone wants it. And as hard as you’ve worked to build your capacity, you know you have a limit. No one has unlimited resources.

Let me ask you this: Why don’t you say no more often?

At work, if a colleague, client, subordinate or the person you report to comes to you for something, what do you do?

Do you take a beat and give yourself a chance to say no? Or do you instantly start to problem-solve?

Lots of high performers blow past their chance to say no in their rush to put out a fire. They’ll say they aren’t in a position to say no, either because of who asked, or the urgency of their work, or because they are the only person who… you fill in the blank that fits for you.

The truth is, you have the right and responsibility to say no to your colleagues, clients, subordinates, and superiors if that’s what needs to happen.

Saying no is how you protect what’s important.

C-Suite readers, this is especially critical for you because your board pays you to protect and grow the company. To do that, you need to:

  • ​protect your personal capacity
  • maintain focus on strategic issues
  • and model effective leadership.

In other words – you need to be especially comfortable saying no to people. What’s more, you can’t jump in to rescue the senior staff who aren’t able to say no. If you do, they train their managers to bail their people out. Everyone is weaker for it.

Listen, there’s no shortage of opportunities for you to say yes to people. Trust me. You’ve got mail. It’s up to you to see the opportunities to say no so that you can protect capacity for the things that matter and deliver real value.

Coming soon: Top 3 Things High Performers Need to Know About Saying No

What do you need to know about saying no to people at work?

I’m working on an article called Top 3 Things High Performers Need to Know About Saying No. And if there’s interest, I might follow it up with: How to Say No the Right Way.

When you think about what really stopped you from saying no to something or someone this week, or what you think would need to change for you to be more comfortable saying no to people, is there a shift that you think I could help you with? Drop me a line if you have an angle you’d like me to address in the article, or if you want to discuss my consulting and coaching services. Either way, I’m curious to hear what you need to know about saying no. Cheers!

Are you subscribed to my monthly newsletter? Subscribers occasionally get exclusive articles, which is what Top 3 Things High Performers Need to Know About Saying No will be. If you haven’t signed up yet, sign up now so you can get this important article.

Breaks Work at Work

Odds are you could be far more effective at work if you didn’t spend quite so much time working.

One tenant of energy management and workplace effectiveness is to take breaks every 90 – 120 minutes. But convincing bright motivated people to take 5 or 6 breaks in a day is no easy task.
Continue reading…

Managers: Stop being so busy

Expectations weigh on all of us. But there are expectations, and expectations.

Managers are busy people, but if you’re non-stop busying yourself with meetings, emails and day to day operations you aren’t really doing what you were hired to do.

You weren’t hired to make the inevitable happen. Continue reading…

Counting Strokes

In golf, winners dole out fewer strokes than their competitors. In management, the opposite is true.

A “stroke” is a unit of human contact and recognition: a pat on the back, applause, a congratulatory note, a hug, an award, or praise. Continue reading…

Enterprise: The Dreaded Performance Review

Chris Obst is interviewed for the Enterprise magazine article The Dreaded Performance Review. It is posted here with the permission of the publisher.

In the article Chris explains how both the employer and employee should approach performance reviews.

BCB Communicator: Go Team!

Chris Obst’s article Go Team, published by the BCB Communicator magazine is posted here with the permission of the publisher.

In the article Chris explains how to position and empower teams to deliver their best performance.


Plan meetings that promote action

When people plan big meetings and corporate events they usually (hopefully) have an objective.

They want to motivate people toward a strategic goal. They want to team-build. They want to educate and energize people. Generally speaking, the people planning meetings want attendees to leave the event ready to DO something.

Continue reading…

You can make opportunities to take a break

My summer is off to a great start. I’m up at 6AM watching the World Cup before I start work and I go out with a buddy for lunch to grab a mid day game. Go Germany! I admit to getting swept up in the action.

And last weekend I competed in the infamous Test of Metal mountain bike race with 999 other racers. It is a 67-kilometer cross-country mountain bike race with over 1,200 meters of climbing. The pros complete it in 2.5 – 3 hours. Mortals like me take 4 – 6 or more.

I’ve never trained for anything so hard in my life.

I want to share something l learned from all this about rest and recovery. Continue reading…

Are you an invisible leader?

I’ve said before that part of being a great leader is that you let people do their jobs.

But some managers of managers and CEOs become so hands off they become invisible. Manage your people well and let them manage their people. But don’t step so far back that their people (or their people’s people) don’t know who you are or what you look like. Continue reading…

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The title for this article is also the new tag line for my company. It came out of an “ah ha” moment that a lot of managers have.

In management, you are always moving, stretching, balancing and rebalancing – it is pretty rare that anyone feels totally comfortable because nothing stays still for very long.

3 reasons you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

  1. Change is constant. And change makes everyone of us more or less uncomfortable.I’m coaching a new VP who confided in me, “This is a really hard job! I feel like I never have things under control.” In her pre-management role, she was able to get things set up and let them operate on cruise control. That just doesn’t happen in management. Continue reading…

How excellent are you?

Leadership excellence is about being able to inspire and grow your highest leverage assets: trust, respect and loyalty.

In good times and bad, everything flows from those three levers.

When you think about great leaders you have known, or admired, my guess is that you would give them all high scores in what I call the 4 C’s. Continue reading…

Management and energy insights from the slopes

I spent last week skiing with my family at Whistler, and the holiday inspired me to write something a little different this month!

1. Try an idea out. Push it a few times, if it still isn’t working try another idea.

chris-and-kidsOur trip started with a plan. My wife and I wanted to take the kids on a spring break ski week at one of the family-friendly resorts in the Okanagan. Our friends had raved about them.

But when I started calling around to make reservations (a few months ago) every place I called had problems. They were booked, or they didn’t get back to us. Continue reading…

Tap into an underexploited energy source: Your emotional energy

We all possess four distinct, yet interconnected sources of energy: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Most of us have a pretty good read on our physical and mental energy levels.

Energy reservesPhysical energy is about what your body can handle: you know your physical energy is low if you fall asleep on a conference call, or if you are dragging your butt to meetings.

Mental energy is about what your brain can handle: you know your mental energy is high if you’re able to analyze a dense report, or if you can make creative connections throughout the day.

Emotional energy is about what you can handle emotionally. It is often indicated by a person’s stress threshold, their breaking/boiling point, their ability to maintain a positive outlook, or their ability to motivate themselves and others. These are all critical factors for high performance at work and at home. Continue reading…

Give your people what they want: one-on-one’s

Give your people what they want.

Following on from my last article about one-on-ones, there is a really easy way for you to give your people what they want this holiday, and throughout the year. Ask them.

Now is a great time to connect with your team and talk to them about their futures and where they see themselves headed.

People want to be empowered to good work, and they want to be seen and respected for who they are and the talents they offer. We aren’t that mysterious. Continue reading…

Brand yourself as a great leader

When I coach, I have a number tools that I use to assess clients. I use different tools for different reasons. But I’m excited about a new Personal Brand Assessment that I’m using to help people:

1) see what impression you leave with people

2) look at what you are doing in your career to consciously cultivate your brand or unconsciously sabotage it Continue reading…

The biggest mistake managers make

The biggest mistake I see managers make is that they repeatedly bail on one-on-ones with direct reports. They set up the meetings, then a big clients comes in from out of town, or someone from head office calls, or the project is behind schedule and… I’ve heard all the excuses. They don’t fly.

It’s a mistake to ditch one-on-ones because:

1. When you bail on one-on-ones you send a message.You inadvertently tell people that they are unimportant, unseen, and unappreciated. 

Don’t think it’s all that bad? Think about how you feel when your boss sets up a meeting with you to talk about your progress and then pushes it because something else came up. That feeling right there is the same feeling that your team members feel every time you bail on them. 

And if you repeat the mistakes of your managers, your employees will repeat them too. Now we are talking about more than one disappointed employee, we are talking about a corporate culture that disrespects employees and stifles potential. It’s serious. Continue reading…

No More Workarounds

Recently, a very good client asked me “does everyone know about workarounds?”

Workarounds are the extra steps you, or your staff, take because something, or more likely someone, is getting in the way of the ideal work flow in your department.

Here are some examples:

The report should go to Ned for review, but he holds everything up. Everybody knows the report will sit on his desk forever and when he Workaroundsfinally gets to it, he’ll miss things. You give it to your superstar to check over, even though it isn’t her job. WORKAROUND

Take a Vacation – for the good of the team

Me at the lakeI had a client tell me recently that since being in management, he hasn’t felt able to take his whole annual vacation. I told him that he seriously needs to get out. Do you?

In case you know someone like that, I thought I’d share some things that came out of our conversation. Continue reading…

Be the Change!

Truth: We are all the victims and benefactors of our environments.

You, as a manager, have the power to be the change that you want to see in your corporate culture. You, as an enlightened leader, have the responsibility to be that change.

The last time you had a meeting with your boss, how did it go? Did you leave the meeting feeling empowered to do great work? Was it rushed, or all over the place? Did your boss give you anything meaty to chew on? Or was it micro-management mania?

Continue reading…

Face Conflict Head On

Conflict is a constant in management, so get used to it.

Last month we started to look at Patrick Lenconi’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team model. My article Build From Trust tackled the first dysfunction that comes up in the model – absence of trust.

The second dysfunction is fear of conflict.

According to Lenconi, fear of conflict inhibits teams from engaging in “unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues.” Continue reading…