There is always more work to do. The greater a person’s commitment to success, and therefore results, the bigger the list of work to do becomes. Many people in organizations operate with the thinking that they get paid for the work they do and the conversations they contribute to. Although this is true, it can constrain the highest-level executives and lead to more effort than results. The danger of this mindset has entire organizations locked up in endless meetings, “firefighting,” and stuck in the past.

In The Essential Drucker, Peter Drucker tells the story of a CEO who ate out with others almost every night during the first two years of his role as CEO because, despite whatever the occasion was, he felt he had to be there. This not only took time away from the CEO to do work and self-development, but it also negatively impacted the events because people were confused with his attendance and accommodating his being there.

A colleague shared that during their time working with the leadership team of one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, there was pushback on the perspective that they were paid to say “no” more than “yes.” The question was then posed, “how many movies are declined for production in comparison to the number of movies given the approval to produce?” Turns out the leadership team was saying no to over 200 movies a year compared to the 10 to 15 movies they were saying yes to give the go-ahead for production. The importance of the work they say “no” to was now palpable and a shift occurred in the room.

Ways that organizations can help determine what work to say “no” to:

  • Acknowledge there is always more work to do and give room to decline requests and meetings
  • Make sure a reason for the existence of the organization, business unit, or leadership team is present and the team is committed to producing a clear, specific, and intentional result to fulfill on this. This is what guides and empowers people to say “yes” or “no”
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up – Ensure team members are holding each other accountable and being a person of their word. The opportunity to address what “yes” is completed and not completed opens the conversation for what they are saying “no” to

The sustainable growth of an organization cannot happen without effective work. Looking at what people are choosing to do and not do is where leaders and managers can start to see if they are set up to win.

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