When our kids were young (they are all in their 20’s now) we were serving up to our eyeballs at church. My wife was serving as a high-capacity volunteer leader in both weekend Kid’s Ministry and a Wednesday night Kids Worship Art program, while I was the primary volunteer worship leader and team leader for our church’s all-age Saturday night service. Our kids were involved in everything they could be involved in (kids, youth, worship), and we would often get pulled into special events (generocity campaigns, fall kick-off, Christmas musicals, life group leaders… and on). It was awesome. At times it was awful. We loved the community and came alive in service, but we were just stretched thin. Our trouble? We didn’t know how to say “no.”
We eventually learned how to say “no,” but it was often hard to say it. We often felt like we were disappointing people, or coming up short.
This situation arose again in my last job, the one I had before launching my new venture. That job met some important criteria for me. I was doing work that mattered with people that I loved. The challenge there was, I live in Nashville and the company was headquartered in Chicago and we had offices in other cities – and I supported them all. While COVID put a pinch on travel for a while, for most of 2021, I was on the road. A lot. How much? I logged over 60 hotel nights with Hilton properties alone, and had another 20 nights in other chains. Each hotel night means at least a travel day before and after. So, at a minimum, I had 120 travel days. And I found I was doing work that mattered, but not at home with the person I loved even more. My wife.
Working with my leadership coach, Jim Herrington of The Leader’s Journey I learned a powerful phrase that was 100% true and 100% effective.
As I shared my situation with my coach – that I was often being requested or felt my attendance useful at various company or customer meetings – I was finding it difficult to say no. And in the pressure that COVID brought on most organizations, I felt I wasn’t doing enough if I said, “I can’t go to your meeting because I’m traveling too much.”
And that’s when I learned a powerful phrase. When asked, or when I felt I should be saying “yes” to another meeting, I could simply say,
“I would love to be there, but I have another commitment.”
I didn’t tell them what the commitment was. And interestingly they never would ask. And what was my commitment? My marriage and being present at home. My other commitment was me focusing on the best thing over a good thing.
I encourage you to try this phrase soon and practice it in advance, and say it with as much conviction as if you have tea with the Queen. And when you say it, don’t add anything else at the end. Move on.