Last Thursday I was invited to be on a regional missions team through my church. The person asking me to consider serving has known me a while and thought that my calling and work would line up fairly well with the mission and goals of the team. We chatted, and I asked him to send me a write up of the responsibilities of the position and the general direction the group so I could reflect on whether I was to participate in the way he asked me.
It was an honor to be asked to lead the education sub-committee, but answering “yes” didn’t seem to be the correct answer. I pondered some more and re-read the responsibilities and direction of the group. As I read the info again, I realized that although I wasn’t being called to serve in the specific capacity asked, I could help in another way if the team was interested.
Yesterday I responded “no,” with a caveat that I could help the team with direction and discernment. I offered an alternative that felt authentic to who I am and the work I do. I didn’t have to offer an alternative. Generally, I decline the invitation because it’s the right thing to do for everyone involved.
As leaders, we’re often asked to be on committees, teams, and boards because we have integrity, get stuff done, and are well-respected and connected. All these things make us great leaders. One of the other characteristics of great leaders is being SUPER CHOOSY in ways that we serve our faith, local, and global communities.
Yes, our gifts and skills might be extremely helpful. Yes, it might be an honor. Yes, we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Yes, we (might) have an obligation to serve, especially if it’s family who is asking. But if we don’t have the time, the energy, or the interest, then we are neither helping ourselves or the people or organization whom we’re serving. Participating in an activity, board, or committee because we feel guilty is not the reason to agree. Learning to say “No” kindly but with conviction is one of the best things we do as leaders. It frees up our time, brainpower, and energy for those things we have purposefully chosen to do.
One of my coaching clients internalized this lesson this way: “Say ‘no’ quickly. Say ‘yes’ slowly.” Indeed!
Stay curious friends!
PS- we are working diligently to get the Dream Big Leadership podcast up and running by September 1. Let us know any topics or things you’d like to hear us talk about!