The men’s locker room at my gym is being renovated and all the lockers are unavailable. In the meantime, the front desk said they are taking bags and holding them in a locked office behind the desk. They tagged my bag and I was on my way. Nobody wasted time on what couldn’t be done. We just worked around it.

What the staff did was highlight a boundary (lockers are currently demolished), but offered an accommodation (we will hold it here). Would that more leaders would do the same. Leaders often have a boundary (like the fact that they are in back to back meetings the rest of the day or that a key person is on vacation), but still feel compelled to say yes without a request for accommodation. If you must give a yes, then at least give a conditional yes.

Yes, I can do it when the person is back in the office.

Yes, I can do it if I can have it to you by the end of the week.

Yes, I can be there if you give me a clear agenda in advance.

Most things don’t need to be right now and most of us have some constraint that would keep us from doing it right now anyway. It’s ok to be clear about that and better for all parties involved.