Sarah is a Business Relationship Manager in a large healthcare organization. She is liked in the organization based on her can do attitude. Lately she has been struggling with the amount of operational work she has to do, and it does not provide a lot of time to sit down with her business partner to talk about the strategy.

When asked about the amount of operational work she gets defensive. It is something she is good at; she can do it faster and better than other people. But she also wants to become involved in strategic issues. She is afraid that something will fail if she is not involved. People depend on her to do the work.

Sarah does not exist in real life, but she does exist in a lot of Business Relationship Managers and the Sarah issue is affecting many Business Relationship Managers; they want to do what is best for the organization without thinking how this affects their own brand.

It is also easy to do activities you are comfortable with, instead of uncomfortable work. So, the question is how to address this. 

It always comes back to purpose first. What is your purpose? Are you a strategic focused BRM? What do you really need to be focused on? The moment you know that purpose it is time to figure out what activities you need to say no to. What are ways to say no to other requests that do not help you with your purpose. Know what’s important, know what other people could do.

When you look at how to say no to something, you can search for this online, a great article is this one from Harvard Business Review.

During coaching sessions I often come back to purpose and how to say no. A great book on purpose and the focus on the right activities is Essentialism from Greg Mckeown.

 Here are some key things to think about when you have to say no as a Business Relationship Manager:

  • Be appreciative: If someone asks you to do something it is often because they trust you. Saying no while thanking them for asking, you can retain that trust. In the end maintaining the trust in the relationship is important. 
  • Say no and explain why: When you say no explain why you are not able to do this. As a Business Relationship Manager clarify your role, so that they understand it is not part of your role and purpose.
  • Establish a preemptive way to say no: Let your executive management know what your purpose is, what you are going to be focused on. This avoids that they even come to you in the first place.
  • Be clear and resolute: Don’t give in. It is so easy to say “ok, I will do it this time”. With Business Relationship Managers we often see the emotional influence of “it will fail without you”. Sometimes you need to let it fail. This all sound easy and often against what you stand for as a Business Relationship Manager. You will need to be comfortable to let things fail in this case, it needs to be safe-to-fail.
  • Do not apologize: Stop apologizing for saying no, be mindful of what you are apologizing for.

Enjoy your free time you get from saying no… Who am I kidding, enjoy the work you really want and need to focus on.

If you want to learn more about the role of Business Relationship Manager attend one of our Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) courses.