Them: Oh, hey. Got a minute?
You (Crap! No, I really don’t.): Umm, sure.
Them: Gosh, I said I’d have my stuff in to you by last week, but I just couldn’t get it done. I’ll get it to you in the next couple of days, ok?
You (Oh-please-just-shoot-me): Well, ok.
Them: I really loved your presentation, but we just can’t meet your price. Would you mind dropping it a little?
You: (Seriously-where-is-my-gun): Oh, I suppose, but just this once.
Sound familiar? I thought so.
And what’s the common theme here? You. Yes, you. You’re the diligent, dedicated, hard-working Sysiphus pushing your rock uphill…only to have it roll back down on you again. And that rock has “Sure”, “OK” and “I suppose” written all over it, because you don’t know how to say no.
The results? Low pricing. Scope creep. Too much of the wrong work. Too little of the right work. Underperforming team members. Overbearing clients. Undefined culture. And most destructive: burnout.
All of this is the very human result of wanting to be liked. We want people to think well of us; rightly so, because it’s generally in our interests to be liked. But we need to get MUCH better at saying no and establishing boundaries if we want to achieve our goals.
So how do we stop being Sysiphus and get that rock on more level ground?
First, remember that as the leader of your firm and a partner with your clients, you can set boundaries. You can say no, not now, later. You can set and maintain clear expectations with your clients at the very beginning of your relationship.
Second, know that you get to decide. You decide how your firm runs, how you conduct yourself, what you expect of your team members, and how much of your energy gets spent on which things. You probably won’t — and wouldn’t be wise to — decide these things in a vacuum, but ultimately you get to make the call.
Third, understand that people come to you because you have something they need. Clients need expertise. Team members need a job. Community leaders need your time and money. They need, you have. This dynamic puts you in the driver’s seat. You are free to choose how you drive.
More important than all of these, though, is this: accept that you are worthy of your role. You are valuable as a business owner, as a leader, and as a human whether or not you accept everyone’s demands of you. People and work will always challenge your boundaries. You’ll always want to be liked. The rock will always be there. But you are healthier and more successful when you realize that you have the power to change the direction of your rock.
Melinda is Thriveal’s Community Group Facilitator. She believes that creating a happy environment at work is not just a noble goal: it’s smart business. After nearly a dozen years as a marketing director for an Albuquerque CPA firm, election to the Association of Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame, and another dozen years on her own, Melinda long ago adopted CPAs as her tribe. Using humor, directness, and clarity, she shows professionals how to understand what they really want. Then she helps them get it.