It’s Thursday at 10AM and you’re getting ready to leave for your two-week vacation when your colleague calls you and asks “Can you help me put together a quick sales deck for an upcoming client meeting?”.
What do you do?
While it’s tempting to immediately react with a ‘sure!’ or ‘no, sorry’ next time try responding with these three questions instead:
Part of setting boundaries is giving ourselves the time and the space to thoughtfully consider requests as they arise.
Because guess what?
it’s OK to ask for more information before making a commitment. In fact, people will often trust you more because you have carefully thought things through.
The ‘Who-What-By When’ framework is also a handy way to get people to commit to the scope of the task which prevents scope creep from happening later on.
Initiating the ‘Who – What – By When’ Conversation
Not sure how to initiate a Who – What – By When conversation? Here are some hip-pocket phrases you can use to get that conversation started:
- “This sounds like an interesting project. I’d love to learn more, can you tell me a bit more about it? Specifically, I’m interested in….[who]…[what]…[by when]”
- “Thanks for thinking of me for this opportunity. Can you help me understand what it involves? I’m curious about…[who]…[what]…[by when]”
Once you have all the information you need, let the person know that you’ll need some time to consider it. You could say something like:
- “Can you give me a few hours/days to think about how this might work?”
- “Let me see what I can do. I’ll get back to you by [time/date].”
- “I’ll take this back and see what’s possible given the competing priorities.”
Remember, it’s OK to ask questions as well as for some time to assess. After all, it’s what high performers do so they can appropriately manage the expectations of others .
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