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Hey it’s Andrew here from

This episode is part of my 2017 end of year challenge – I’m committing to give you two weeks solid of advice, reflections and actions for you to maximise what you learn from 2017, and  unleash your greater potential in 2018.  I’m sharing one episode every single day for the two weeks leading up to Christmas, so check out the other episodes numbers 55 through 65.

There is no particular order, each one of these will be great on it’s own, but listening to more will give you much greater value.  If you are listening to this at any other time of the year, have no fear! – the best time for you to take action on this is always right now!

I’m still taking bookings for first quarter 2018, I’d love to come out to your team meeting, strategy session, retreat, internal conference or workshop to help you and your teams become more effective in 2018.  Send me an email and we can get the ball rolling.

In today’s episode I want you to share one simple word which will improve your effectiveness right now. Download the free transcript of this episode PLUS a worksheet to help you take action from what you learn, in the box just above.

We health and safety people can be a complicated bunch.  On the one hand I think we try and be these very useful, agreeable people in business, we just want people to like us and include us! So we tend to say yes, to lots of things.  Yes, of course I’ll do that inspection for you.  Yes, I did respond to your email immediately. Yes, I can run that training session for just the 2 people who failed to attend the two previous sessions.

We equate saying yes to customer service, building trust and relationships.

We feel the need to be responsive, which I think has it’s roots in the idea that safety people exist because things go wrong, so we are on alert to be responsive.  We are there for you business people!

On the other hand, we can have a reputation as the fun police – the one’s who say No to anything that might remotely involve a risk.  No, you can’t do that because someone might get hurt.  No you can’t do that because there is no risk assessment.  No you can’t do that because it doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Sometimes the word no becomes folklore, when a historical NO gets a life of it’s own like some urban legend, and other people carry those NO’s forward.  No you can’t serve full strength alcohol….I think there is a rule about that.  No, you can’t use volunteers, apparently.  No you can’t bring your dog to work because it might have rabies.

So it seems that we say yes far too often to the wrong things, and no far too readily to other things….I’ll make a separate  video about when we need to say YES more often.  For now, I want you to no, more often and to more people.

Stephen Covey talks about his definition of effectiveness which is simply doing the right things.  He says that the trap many of us fall into is doing things right, but what things? We might feel busy, slammed, we are creating visible products of our labour – but is it the right stuff, going in the right direction? He talks about the fable of the jungle clearing crew, whose manager immediately gets them to work clearing the jungle.

The leader however climbs the tallest tree, survey’s the landscape, and yells back down ‘we’re in the wrong jungle!’.  And you know what the busy manager and workers yell back? Shut-up, we’re making good progress.  To them that is more important than being in the right jungle.

When we say yes too often, it creates a few problems.  It creates overwhelm for us and our teams, because we don’t evaluate our answer against the time or resource that we have.  That often leads to underperformance – we underdeliver because we overcommit.  We create an expectation as a push-over, they say jump and we say how high.  We try and make up for poor accountability when we say yes to things others should be doing.  We devalue our own time and priorities.

Now saying no isn’t just to a person in realtime.  Our behaviour says yes to all manner of other things, like emails, notifications from systems, and commitments made in meetings or in procedures.  We say yes every time one of these things dictates what we are doing, versus something else.

You need to be confident Why you are saying no.  This means that you need enough information to make an informed decision.  You need to be guided by a strategy, a plan, business KPI’s, personal objectives – whatever it is, there must be a reason why you are saying no in relation to your limited time and resource.

When you are clear on WHY you are saying no, it means that there are different kinds of NO which are all based on doing the right thing vs doing things right.

No Full stop – This could be something absolutely out of the question, something unethical, inappropriate, illegal.  Most of us will say no to these already, hopefully they are rare.  You still need to explain WHY.

No, Not right now.  In respect of the asker, you let them know that what they are asking is important, but not as important as what you are working on right now.

That might feel uncomfortable.  Most people will appreciate the relative demands placed on your time, and respect your clarity.  Not right now naturally leads to a “then when” conversation, which continues in service of the person asking so you don’t leave them hanging.  This also applies to emails and system notifications – say no to immediate notifications, and check these only a few times a day.

No, Not exactly that.  This clarifies that based on your expertise you don’t think what the asker wants is maybe what they need.  Again you must explain your rationale in service to better meeting their needs.  Provide an alternative which is focussed on an agreed, shared objective.

No, Not me.  A straight no is like having a customer service call cut off.  If you aren’t the right person to help, facilitate the introduction to the right person or information.  Facilitate is the key here, just because it’s a no from you doesn’t mean you kick them in the butt as they walk out the door, you hold their hand until they get to the right person or resource or whatever.

And of course, there are those times when the reason for your NO is wrong – when you are saying no because it serves you, when it is inconvenient for you, or it is not your preference.  That’s not a good reason to say no.

I’m not telling you when to say yes or no, you need to figure that part out for yourself.  What I am telling you is that you need to be affirmative about when and why you say yes or no.

Saying No means you are clear on your objectives, and how they fit with your customers.  Saying no means you are firm when you can see what your customer wants is not going to be the best thing for them.  Saying no more often means you are ruthless with your time, as your most precious resource.

Ok time for reflection and action. Grab your reflection template from the box above.

Listen very carefully to people who’ve said no to you.  Who was that….and do you know why? Ask them why if you aren’t sure.  Seek out someone who you think is really effective, not just efficient.  Ask them what they say no to, when, why, and how.

Think about your current commitment, what have you said YES to that is presenting a challenge for you now? It might be competing demands, delayed delivery, inadequate resources, whatever.  Make a list of what you are doing now that you should say NO to.  Jot down WHY you want to say no, how you plan to say no, and make that happen.

When you say no more often for the right reasons, you’ll be taking positive, effective and rewarding action to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way! Seeya!