“You got a Minute?” – How to say ‘no’

June 1st, 2016 by John Gallagher 2 Comments



How many times a day does someone come to you and ask “Do you have a minute?” Of course you say ‘yes’, right?  How many times does that minute actually last a minute?  Normally one turns into 5 or 10 AND you end up with another assignment.  Why can’t we say no?

  • “I don’t want to hurt the other’s feelings”
  • “I have an open door policy”
  • “It’s only a minute”
  • “What if it is important?”

I have heard all of these things and more as a coach.  One of these distractions a day isn’t bad.  Five to 10 times day can lead to significant lost time.  What are some ways to reduce or minimize these distractions without coming across as rude?

  1. Communicate ‘open hours’ – It seems a bit odd, but an open door policy does not mean 24/7.  You can actually schedule your hours.
  2. Close your door and use visual management to let your team know when you will be available.
  3. Say ‘no’, but with grace.  “I am sorry.  I do not have a minute right now.  However, I will be available at 4:00.  If this is not an emergency (there sometimes are emergencies), can we sit down then?  Please have my assistant schedule a time for us.” This response respects the person who came in AND it respects your time as well!

I know.  This is easier said than done, but if you want to improve your productivity, you will have to learn the skill of saying ‘no’ respectfully

What ways have you used to help reduced the “Do you have a minute?” distractions?


February 15th, 2016 by John Gallagher No Comments


Is it a song?

Is it a verse?

Is it a picture?

Is it a goal?

Is it a person?

For me, it is situational, for sure.  I am always in search of inspiration.

This weekend, I found that inspiration in my brother, Michael Gallagher.  He has persevered.  He is a survivor!  Michael was born with a congenital heart defect that was detected during a routine sports physical before he turned 10 years old.  Essentially, this ended his sports career before he ever got started.  Since then, Michael has had three surgeries to repair (and replace!) the defect.  This weekend, Michael was honored by the Roanoke Heart Association at their annual Heart Ball as a survivor.  Here he is with us on that night.  He is the TALL one, even though I still call him my ‘little’ brother.


He has persevered.  He has been given clean bill of health and now is  a referee of the sport he loves most.  He is a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and friend.  He IS an inspiration to me!

What (Or Who) inspires you?


January 30th, 2016 by John Gallagher No Comments



Facebook has a really cool tactic to get you to engage more… Memories:

facebook memories

You click on it and it takes you back to posts from that date in the past.  Most of the time, those are good memories, some challenging, but likely ones where we were sharing something we learned or accomplished.

Can we do that to improve our leadership skills?  Don’t you wish you had a “Your positive leadership memories” button to push to go back to times where you had successful personal leadership moments?

I often encourage others to create a ‘Why’ folder.  A place to store reminders of good leadership moments.   It shouldn’t just be a folder, though, that makes us feel good when we are down, although that helps.  But, when we look back on memories (both positive and challenges), there are lessons to be learned and questions to be asked.  I believe the most important questions to ask when reviewing those positive memories would be:

  1. What was I ‘doing’ at that moment that helped me to achieve that success?
  2. Who was I ‘being’ at that moment that helped me to achieve that success?
  3. How can I use what I was doing and being then to achieve success in the PRESENT moment?

Maybe someone some day will create an app that pops up memory reminders for our positive leadership moments.  Maybe one exists and I don’t know it.  Either way, be intentional on reviewing those memories, learning from them, and driving continuous improvement as a leader.

What are your thoughts?



December 22nd, 2015 by John Gallagher 9 Comments



2015 is about to come to a close.  The hustle of the end of the year crunch, whether it be at home or work, will make it difficult for leaders to prepare for 2016.

2015 16 switch

For leaders to continuously grow into the future, it is important that they reflect on their past performance.  Deep personal reflection is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolkit.

Find some time to reflect.  You will be glad you did.    Find your favorite chair and your favorite journaling device, block off 2 hours on your busy calendar, and answer these 5 simple questions about your leadership  to wind down 2015 and prepare for 2016:

1. What went well in 2015? – I am sure things went well.  Write them down and recognize those things.  Too often as leaders, we run right to the negative.

2. What could have gone better in 2015? – This list is important, also, and often it is the longer of the two lists.

Don’t rush these first two questions.  Write or type until you can’t really think of anything else.  Review your calendar from the past year to trigger thoughts.  After you feel you have thoroughly answered the first two questions, move to questions 3 through 5:

3.  What do I need to KEEP doing in 2016? There are things that are going well for you.  Capitalize and leverage those things into 2016.

4. What do I need to START doing in 2016? As part of the challenge, there are things that you may need to start doing to improve your leadership.

5.  What do I need to STOP doing in 2016? – Last time I checked, there are still only 24 hours in a day.  If we are going to start doing new things, then we must STOP doing things as well.  This is one of a leader’s greatest challenges.

Try this out and let me know how it goes.  

Four D’s to free up 20% of your time

December 2nd, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



Have you ever really sat down and looked at your schedule and it felt so overwhelming that you just wanted to ‘give up’, delete it all and start over?


As leaders, we often find it difficult to say ‘no’ to people for many reasons.  Mostly because we really don’t want to upset anyone, but a lot of times, it is because everything seems important.  Well, is it really?  Here is an exercise you can do to help you understand if you have the right things on your calendar.  I have often referred to it as the “4 D’s”

  1. Delegate
  2. Defer
  3. Deselect
  4. Do-it!

Make a list of all of the things you think you must do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  With that list in hand, ask your self the following four questions for each item:

  1. Can I DELEGATE this item to someone else to do?  Often we don’t delegate because “it will take me more time to train someone so I will do it myself”, or “I want it done a certain way so I must do it” – Both of these reasons are signs of poor leadership.  One of the best ways to develop others is to give them valuable tasks to grow, so Delegate more.
  2. Can I DEFER this item?  Is it REALLY the most important thing you need to be doing at this time?  Can it wait 30 days, 60 days, 90 days?  Often it can.  Put a reminder on your calendar for 90 days out.  Maybe it won’t be as important then
  3. Can I DESELECT this item? Have you been doing something for so long (a meeting, a report, a task) that you just do it because you always have?  Maybe you don’t need to do it anymore at all.  DESELECTING is the most difficult task of leadership.  A good friend has told me many times, “You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want”
  4. I guess I must DO it? – If your answer to the first 3 questions is NO, then you must do it!  Put it on the calendar and make it happen.  The challenge here is to do the task with the least non-value-added activity.  Can I automate it?  Can I be more efficient at it?  Improve the task.

Go through this process about every 90 days.  If you haven’t freed up 20% of your time, then you are not being critical enough of the tasks.  Go back through it again?

What about you?  How do you make sure your schedule doesn’t get overburdened?  Try this exercise and let me know how it goes.

The elegance of the sticky note for problem solving

September 4th, 2015 by John Gallagher 3 Comments

So many technological tools out there right now with the laptop, the tablet, and the smartphone, to name a few.  There are spreadsheets and slide decks and projectors and software as well.

But, there is just something about the simple elegance of the sticky note for visual problem solving as a tool.


Here are 5 reasons I often like the sticky note over technology:

  1. It moves freely – Often, when coaching I build process flow maps or matrices and when a step is missed, or a better idea comes up, you just lift it off the wall and move it over, down, across and re-stick it!!
  2. It forces conciseness – Much like a Twitter post, your characters are limited if you want to be able to read it from a distance.  Verb and a noun! That’s all you need.
  3. It improves brainstorming – By giving everyone in your group one of those little stacks, you are sure to get all of their thoughts.  And, it is easier to move them into themes once you ahve the ideas.  (Refer to reason 1)
  4. It makes for a good reminder – You can’t hit ‘dismiss’ on a sticky note.  Just recently, I needed to remember to get something out of the fridge before I left, so I wrapped that sticky around the car keys and, sure enough, I would have forgotten!
  5. It is symmetrical – the 3 x 3 is my favorite, but that is the engineer in me.

This might be overdoing it, though:

sticky notes overdone

Are you a fan of sticky notes?


April 1st, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



I had a friend ask me recently about a simple process they might be able to use with their team to review “How are things going?”  Often times, individuals or organizations don’t invest enough time in a formal review process that, done correctly, can make minor course corrections in tactics that get you back moving toward your objective.  Rather, they feel things aren’t working and make drastic changes and end up further off course then when they started.  Antique Compass

The 6-step process below will help get you back on track and can work with self-reflection or team reflection.

1) The simple “+/-” tool.  Draw a T-diagram with a plus on the left side and a minus on the right side of a piece of paper, a flip chart, or dry erase board and ask 2 questions:  1) what is going well (+) ? and 2) What isn’t going well (-)?  Try to list out all of the things that are going well first before moving to the what isn’t going well question.  (NOTE: If you are doing this with a team, it could be important to have each team member write each one of their thoughts down on a sticky note – 1 thought per sticky.  This ensures that you get input from ALL voices).

2) K,S,S (Keep, Start, Stop)– After reflecting on the list, list out one thing you should KEEP doing, one thing you should START doing, and one thing you should STOP doing based on the T-diagram.  The natural tendency is to START making drastic changes and do a lot more things.  Resist this urge.  You are probably already very busy.  Try hard to have no more than one Start for every Stop.  This ensures that you don’t overburden yourself or your team.   A wise friend once told me that “You can do ANYTHING you want… you just can’t do EVERYTHING you want”

3) What, Who, When – Assign accountability and due dates.  What needs to be done?  Who is responsible for doing it, and When will it be done?  Try not to extend the due dates out past 90 days.  If you have to go further than that, the task is probably too big.  Keep the list visual.  This also helps with accountability.  Post it on a flip chart in your office.

4) Ask for help –  Share your things you need to do with someone.  Share it with God in prayer…Ask for help.  Share it with your spouse…ask for help.  Share it with a mentor…ask for help.  Share it with a family member…ask for help.  Share it with a friend…ask for help.  Key thing.  Don’t try to do it alone.

5) Schedule regular reviews – Check in with yourself or others formally — weekly (maybe Friday mornings at 7:30) or monthly (3rd Monday of every month).  Keep the reviews brief.  Are you on track or not?  If you are, move on.  If you are not on track, develop a countermeasure and ask for help.

6) Continuously improve – When you get all of the items complete, did they work?  Make the new activity (or those activities) part of your new routine.  Then, repeat the process… go back to Step #1


Try it out.  Let me know how it goes. What steps would you add to this process?