According to one of the world’s wealthiest people, Warren Buffet, the successful say no to almost everything. If you are a manager or mentor you may be inundated with requests for coffee meetings, informational interviews, social events and advice. But if you are extremely busy, is saying no to requests really always the answer?
Here are five ways to say yes that empower both you and your recipient:
1. Set a Time Limit
Ideally our lives are a balance between our families, relationships, exercise, work, social activities, personal development and giving back to the community (if you actually have your life perfectly balanced in all these criteria, I applaud you). It is likely that work takes up the majority of your day leaving a precious few hours for other activities. However if you monitor how you spend your time every day for a week, you will be able to notice trends and where you may have some free time. Once you do this, you can allot a specific number of hours on a certain day of the week, or month to allocate to requests. This way you will know you aren’t over booking yourself, and you will feel good that you are giving back to the community for a certain amount of time every month.
2. Make an Introduction
If you are really pressed for time but still want to help someone, make an introduction to someone who you think can help and has the time to help. This works especially well if you think the meeting can be mutually beneficial for both parties.
3. Skip the Coffee
People may ask you if they can buy you a cup of coffee in exchange for a meeting with you. Although it is a nice gesture on the part of the requester, going for coffee can be a huge time drain. You need walk or transit to the coffee shop, wait in line for a coffee, and then sit down and talk. Generally it is very difficult to keep a coffee meeting extremely short. A more effective way to handle requests is to let the person know you are happy to talk on the phone or via Skype. Most importantly let the person know in advance how much time you have available. This way you will manage their expectations, and they can prepare how many questions to ask you.
4. Prepare Your Answers in Advance
It is likely that many of the questions you get are similar such as: “how did you get started in your line of work?”, “can we meet for a coffee?” or “can I get some advice on (fill in the blank)?” Rather than responding to each inquiry individually you can prepare responses that you can copy and paste into your emails. All you need to do is simply personalise the greeting. This will save you a lot of time, and you will be able to respond to people quicker.
5. Do What Works For You
We are all built different. Some managers and mentors are extroverts and become energized when they are out at events mingling with other people. Others are introverts and prefer to help people from the comfort of their home over email. If you want to help people, you need to find a system that works for you and uplifts you. In fact an interesting study found that helping others can make you happier only if you do it out of free will, and not out of shame or pressure. Don’t compare yourself to other managers or mentors and find the best processes for you. The people you help will appreciate it.