Managing Expectations & Negotiating Priorities

How to prioritize, and when necessary, diplomatically negotiate some incoming demands on your time.

Now, more than ever, we need to accept that no one can do it all and make everyone happy. We’re all facing more change, faster than ever, and simply adding everything to our to-do list is not a productive, or sustainable, approach. Navigating change and reducing burnout means having thought-out, courageous conversations about what is, and what is not a priority. “No” is the new “Yes” because it starts this conversation.

This highly engaging session will provide you with practical strategies to help you develop your skills around how to manage expectations and diplomatically negotiate some incoming requests.

The virtual version of this course is 90-120 minutes & the in-person version is 2-3 hours.

A Change in how we think about “yes”. 

  • Examining the costs, to ourselves and others, of a “try to do it all” approach (how the quality of work suffers, team relationships are strained, burnout increases, and bigger picture priorities end up getting left on the back burner.)
  • Instead of feeling guilty, being clear on how we actually owe it to others to sometimes negotiate some things. (They want us to say “yes” but they need to us to ask questions, clarify expectations, explore other options and sometimes even say “no”….)

Triaging Change & incoming requests. How to clarify what is a priority & determine when to push back.

  • A 4 step risk analysis exercise to help us prioritize incoming requests and determine when we should be pushing back.
  • Removing false assumptions and taking an evidence-based approach to the triaging decisions we make.
  • The role of Planning. In order to effectively triage, we need to be clear on the bigger “yes”.

How to push back with tact and diplomacy (without using the word “no”).

  • Proactive strategies to anticipate, discuss and reduce some of the lower priority demands from arriving in the first place.
  • Powerful, solution-focused questions to help us explore and negotiate alternatives as change happens and requests come at us.
  • Other tips (& tactful language) to help us deliver the push back in a positive manner.
  • The “Next 10 Request” exercise. A practical exercise to help us apply these tactics and develop our skills and confidence for triaging change.
  • Team tactics to clarify expectations for response times to email & instant messages (an informal “Team Charter”) so that we respond in a timely manner to high priority issues without reacting unnecessarily to lower priority messages.
Doug Heidebrecht


I help teams and individuals do more with less, reduce stress and carve out more time for their true priorities.