Consultants: Are You Doing a Disservice to Your Client Partner by Saying “Yes” to Everything?

As a consultant and a leader who expects perfection of myself, as well as wants everyone around me to be happy, I tend to say “Yes!” or “Sure thing!” or “No problem!” to every request for my time and input.  I also tend to suggest new ideas and creative solutions that aren’t asked of me, because I know it would be valuable to a client partner or others I work with.  I’m sure other consultants have found this to be typical behavior for themselves; however, a question I had to ask myself at one point in my career was: “Am I doing a disservice for my client partner (or employer, or family, or self) by saying ‘Yes!’ to everything?  Am I actually taking on a huge quantity of tasks and responsibilities, but reducing the quality of the work output I am providing?”

When I asked myself these questions, I realized that I had been focusing on the wrong things.  I stopped focusing on quality and creativity, and was only focusing on not wanting to disappoint others around me that were requesting my knowledge, time, and experience.  I knew then, that it was important for me to say “No” to some things and not “Yes” to everything.  Below are my recommendations on how to approach this in an honest and direct manner:

I encourage you to think about your approach as being the most professional option.  It would be unprofessional of you to take on too much and not be able to complete it successfully or on time, so – in essence – you are doing right by your manager and company by being upfront with what you can and cannot handle.

I recommend that you approach the conversation with your manager in the following ways:

  1. Schedule a formal meeting with your manager for 60 minutes, early in the morning.  This will be sure that you have their full attention, in private, and before the headaches of the day begin.  Hopefully, there will be nothing to distract your manager by scheduling in this way.
  2. Prepare your talking points in advance of the meeting and practice speaking them out loud.  This will improve your confidence and allow you to communicate calmy rather than nervously.  Your manager will take on the tone and behavior that you bring to this meeting.
  3. Your talking points should include strategic topics, such as:
    1. Your appreciation for your manager’s confidence in you,
    2. Your honest reason as to why you are unable to take on a particular task or responsibility asked of you (because it would interfere with the high-quality that you can produce),
    3. Your suggested solution or idea (if it’s appropriate for you to suggest), such as: how you would like to take on more in smaller ways that you can manage (e.g., lead an additional meeting, take on just one new project and not five, have your manager mentor and coach you, delegate some of your responsibilities to other team members, etc.), and lastly that
    4. You would appreciate their continued support and are committed to them and your team.

By having a well-planned discussion and being forthright about your ability to take on more will set a great impression that you: are honest and confident, can set boundaries for yourself, and are a strong planner.  Additionally, learning how to say “no” to your manager – out of necessity and in moderation – is essential in your career progression.  If you are unable to produce quality work because you are taking on too much (or your manager is asking too much of you), then you can’t expect to be anything but run down, stressed to the max, and frazzled.  Take control of your career and life by saying no to some things rather than yes to everything.