How to not disappoint your teammate (video transcript)

One of the biggest issues is that we wanna say yes to our teammates. They want our help, and we wanna deliver.

But how many times have you said yes to someone only to immediately regret adding another to-do to your list. You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach because you’ve taken on too much, and you have to choose between short-changing your own priorities or disappointing your teammate. Argh!

Here are some alternatives to setting yourself up to disappoint.

First, question the scope of the work. It’s possible that your colleague has blown the project out of proportion. A few questions about the purpose and objective might help to rein it in to a more manageable size. You can try questions such as “Who is this for?” or “How will the output be used?” From that, you might be able to suggest efficient ways of doing the work.

Another really important tactic is to reduce the scope of your assistance. I find people tend to dump an entire project on you when all they really need from you is one specific part of the project. For example, someone might say, “You know that ACME customer best so you can prepare the presentation for their visit next week.” You can ask, “What made you come to me on this?” or “What specifically do you need me to do?” When they tell you that you know ACME better than anyone else, you can offer to write the introduction only of the presentation or to review their draft and make some suggestions. Those are much more reasonable requests and ones you’ll be able to accommodate without throwing your own priorities out the window.

Also, it’s important to put it in context. Always put your assistance in context if there are any reasons why you might not be able to deliver a hundred percent. You need to communicate those reasons upfront.

For example, if you haven’t done that particular task before, be clear. “I’ll do my best, but I don’t have any experience working in PowerPoint.” Or if you have other priorities that might take precedent, “I can protect three hours this week to work on this, but the rest of the time, I need to be working on my pitch for the Alpha Project.” It’s probably true that in a fast-paced and interdependent workplace that you’re bound to disappoint someone at some point, but you can greatly reduce the frequency and the severity of that disappointment by better managing expectations upfront. Help your teammate right size the work.

Make sure that you focus only on your contribution that’s unique to you, and then provide all the constraints upfront so they don’t become excuses later.

That’s how you avoid disappointing a teammate.

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