I recently watched as a good man failed to be promoted to a position he had long sought. When I look back at the deliberations of those who decided this man’s fate, there really was one issue that settled the matter. I’m frustrated by this, because this one issue was more a matter of style than substance and yet it signaled troubling trends in this man’s life that his bosses found disqualifying.
I want to name this matter of style and then challenge you to eject it from your life.
This man—let’s call him Tom—had a habit of recounting his busy schedule as a way of sidestepping responsibility. If someone asked Tom to meet for lunch on Tuesday, he would reply by reciting his entire schedule for the week by way of saying he just didn’t have time. “You can’t believe my week,” he would begin. Then he would name everything from a phone chat with a contractor to a funeral to his daughter’s recital. In short, he used his schedule as a shield.
Now, he thought this would assure people he was productive. It didn’t. Instead, people thought he couldn’t handle his responsibilities well. They also thought he was saying he was too important to meet with them. They left the conversation offended. More than a few walked away thinking less of Tom because they were just as busy as he was but would never respond to an invitation in such a way.
Now let me contrast Tom with my friend Sean. He’s truly one of the busiest people I know. Yet tell him you want to ask a favor and he will turn fully toward you, look you in the eye, and ask how he can help you. No recounting of schedule. No trying to impress with busyness. No sidestepping responsibility. I can’t tell you how much confidence this inspires and how much respect.
Sean is rising. Tom is not.
Here’s the deal. Using your schedule as a shield won’t work. It offends. It reduces you in the eyes of others. It leaves people thinking you don’t have the range for more responsibility. Be a Sean, not a Tom. Watch what happens.