The Clutter of Outdated & Ill-Defined Agreements

Ever feel overwhelmed by unexpected requests from people who are important to you, or surprises in your schedule with sudden “emergencies” or when meetings go longer than you planned? Being “semi-retired”, I’m finding that lots of things are unpredictable – like when the phone rings with another client that I can’t turn down, and then my schedule is shredded by new client appointments and travel that’s been booked for months.

What to do? Fortunately, my training kicked in to remind me to update my agreements with those people I interact with the most. For example:

  • My weekly phone calls with Jake were useful for us both. I was coaching him on a management situation so he was getting value, but it was provocative for me too, making me think on my feet and explore the more dimly lit corners of how to define and manage a huge (global) project. But then I found myself editing documents for the project; and then I was invited to join project team conference calls. I wasn’t just a management coach anymore – I was in the midst of the global project planning process. Help!
  • My twice-weekly calls with a former client here in Columbus were less useful. She was stuck in a set of complaints and problems that were three years old, and she was counting the days to retirement in despair of any other solution. So I was mostly a sounding-board, which is not a productive conversation for me. Groan.
  • My weekly post-yoga class brunches with Derek have begun to get oppressive. Jeffrey and I met him at a community table in a local restaurant, and in a few weeks we had somehow created an expectation that we would do this forever. He looked shocked the time I said we wouldn’t be there the following week. Then there were suggestions that we should go out to dinner. Then he started referring to us as his Aunt and Uncle. Egads!

I sent Jake an email outlining my understanding of our collaboration: phone calls and occasional editing, but not project participation. We’re finalizing that now.

I told the former client that I would only be available for phone calls in the evenings now, due to my new client work schedule. That’s a tougher time for her to talk very long, so it will shorten the calls and make them less frequent. I also committed myself to asking her early in each conversation what she would like to get out of this call, so we could focus on solving a specific problem. I expect that to help too.

And last Saturday, I told Derek that we would be traveling for the next 5 weeks. I also made it a point to let several of the wait-staff know too, knowing they would help Derek remember we would be away. When we return, we will establish a new Saturday morning routine: we’ll meet Derek for breakfast once or twice a month, when it’s convenient for us. But school is starting too, so we just won’t be available for dinner.

Best regards from Aunt Laurie

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