Previously, I’ve talked about my intention to say NO more often. Inherently, my nature is to want to help others, and my pay-it-forward philosophy is at the core of who I am.
What I have painfully learned through 20-20 hindsight however, is that you just cannot say yes to every request that comes your way. Be especially careful of agreeing to giving away your time for free. If the request doesn’t truly support your own personal and professional priorities, no matter how much you want to be helpful, you have to politely walk away.
Contrary to what some folks believe, I do think that if you make a commitment to something, get into it and then realize it isn’t working for you, you should feel OK about walking away. I know some people who would call that quitting, but I view it as making a new evaluation based on changed circumstances. This is far better than “technically” sticking with the commitment even though you are really checked out and doing nothing.
Recently, I stepped away from a volunteer commitment after 15 months. My business priorities have changed and that’s where my energy needs to flow. I did a lot of FREE work for the organization and pulled double duty when someone else dropped out of their position suddenly, so I feel good about my contribution.
There are two sides to that commitment coin. On one side, is when you initially said yes the request for help. The flip side is the actual following through on that commitment. In other words, doing the work. What really bugs me is when people commit to a particular role but then don’t do the job. Why bother agreeing to do the job in the first place?
That’s where accountability comes in. It is amazing how masterful people can become at denial, procrastination and avoidance, constantly making excuses for why they are not honoring their commitments to others. Or worse, these people generate constant swirl making life difficult for the people around them.
Ironically, I’ve observed more dysfunction, backstabbing and interference from others – who want to tell you how to do your job when they should be doing their own – on volunteer boards and committees. While still in a corporate career I never liked politics and back biting, because it serves no purpose whatsoever. The fact that I’m donating my valuable – billable – time makes it even less palatable.
And that’s the rub…
Lack of commitment and accountability erodes trust, destroys teamwork and causes stress and frustration. If you want talented people to volunteer time to your organization and cause, run it like a business. Hold people accountable for honoring their commitment. Expect them to show up on time, honor work agreements and support other members of the team. Anything less is unacceptable.