Not the best motivational poster, right?
How many times have you told yourself, “I can’t do that”? If you want to make yourself a more valuable employee (and a “can-do” human!), it’s worth looking at what “can’t” might actually mean.
I Don’t Want To…
You say: “I can’t go to the meeting on Wankel Rotary Engines, I have work to do.”
But, you really mean: "I don't want to..."
Be honest with yourself. More often than not you really can go to the meeting if you budget your time differently. You just really, really, really don’t want to. But, as no one ever said about monkey bread and cinnamon rolls, it’s not the same thing.
Why make this distinction? Because finding a way to make you want to go to the meeting can make everything better! Imagine signing up a different speaker every week instead of listening to Mr. Monotone all the time. (Contact DLM Consulting to fix that. I know a guy.) You could infuse a little optimism into the agenda by everyone sharing a “good thing that happened this week.” Keep people engaged by making sure everyone contributes to the agenda. Keep the meetings short. Have them in the park. Serve drinks.
Saying “I can’t” implies the presence of an immovable barrier. Saying “I don’t want to” is an opportunity for improvement.
I Don’t Know How…
You say: “I can’t make a Wankel Rotary Engine!”
But, you really mean: "I don't know how..."
The solution is simple: learn! But, if you’ve ever worked in a wankel rotatory engine factory, or had any job anywhere ever, you’re already thinking about the tradeoff. On the one hand, if not having that knowledge is negatively effecting your job, it’s probably in your best interest to learn it. The more you know, the more you can do and the more valuable you are to your boss. And you’ve added a new skill to your resume. "Wankeling!”
But on the other hand, you lose the right to say you “can’t,” and you’ll probably end up doing more work. On the other other hand, think of it this way. Would you rather learn a new skill that helps you, or knowingly miss an opportunity to make yourself more valuable as an employee?
I don’t believe I can…
You say: "I can’t change the color of the Wankel Rotary Engine!”
But, you really mean: "I don't believe I can..."
You want to change the color because Wankel Gray is boring, but no one said you could. This is not a case of “do it first and ask forgiveness later.” Save that for eating someone else’s monkey bread. This is when you empower yourself to ask the right questions and clarify your range of influence. Maybe you can’t, or maybe you can. Maybe you can create a system whereby suggestions are made to the color-making people and you get your voice heard anyway, even if you don't have a final say in the matter.
Do you want to improve the company and make yourself a more valuable employee? Look at why you think things can’t happen and restate the situation. I can’t think of a better way!