Monday, December 23, 2002

Using "AND" rather than "BUT"

One of the amazing things I observed last week occurred in a management meeting on Tuesday. In two very different settings in our business unit, we had staff members who were spontaneously raising their own standards. In both cases, they had looked at important, strategic, recent business results which were very encouraging, exceeding expectations. And, in both cases, their immediate reaction was "we can do better." Their mood was one of slight discouragement.

How do we react as leaders when, as expected, efforts towards waste reduction yield fruit? How do we respond when quality people expect more of themselves?

My colleague, Greg, captured it well (as he so often does) when he pointed out we have to use "AND", not "BUT" in the setting. Example: "We've done well AND we can do better." "We did well on 65% of those jobs AND we can make inroads on the other 35%."

This is not just a clever linguistic ploy. Years ago, I heard a trainer say "The word 'but' negates everything that comes before it, as it if does not count." Think about this phrase, commonly used; "He's a nice guy BUT he never turns in his time cards." Plug in the fault you choose; by using the word "but" you negate your earlier assessment that "he's a nice guy." Words are important.

By using "and" we can correctly acknowledge the progress that is real and celebrate it. We also correctly acknowledge that we can make further progress.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend.

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