One such opportunity is when someone comes to you with “I can’t do something…” or “I’m too busy…”

Remember, too busy is not a time issue; it’s a prioritization problem, which is an issue of clarity. “I don’t know how” is an issue of competence.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.33.57 PM

As people scale the Ladder of Leadership it is important for us to listen for these phrases because their responses will expose the gap in clarity. Our responsibility as leaders is to fill the gap so the people around us can level up.

As you can see, moving from level one “tell me what to do” to level two “I think,” is going to require the leader to take a step back and the worker to take a step forward. Don’t be surprised (or frustrated) when you hear “I can’t” be curious and ask questions.


  • Do they know why their role is important?
  • Do they see how their contribution adds value to the project?
  • What information do I need to share?
  • What is on their plate?
  • What can I do to support them?

Remember to listen. If you need to, sit in their seat. Work together to gain clarity and turn “I can’t” into “I can.”

So the next time someone says they can’t do something, ask them to tell you what is getting in the way and join them in their world.