Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
During some sessions I have been providing on leadership development, I have had multiple conversations with both new and experienced managers on the topic of removing the word “but” when you are giving feedback. Too often, more experienced people can’t help but provide “constructive criticism” when trying to provide advice on how to improve. In reality, it is still criticism, and nobody like to be criticized.
Due to the positive impact from the brief discussions I had with session participants, I decided to update and re-share this article as a nice reminder on how to deliver feedback. Focusing on the desired outcome instead of critiquing what has happened is a simple mindset change that can be powerful in the results you see from those you are guiding.
A great philosopher once wrote, “The power of reading is not in the act of reading a book but instead in the gathering of knowledge to expand your wisdom.” Okay, so maybe that didn’t come from a great philosopher, but it does drive home the point of why we read.
To help you get Beyond Today, I would like to share some wisdom that I picked up a few years ago. I cannot share with you the book or article it came from as I do not recall the title, but I did retain the knowledge that was written on the pages. You can improve engagement and empowerment in your team by replacing the word “but” with “now” when providing feedback.
Replacing the Negative
You will find numerous articles and books that talk about replacing “but” with “and” which is also powerful. The word “but” is an adversative conjunction while “and” is a cumulative conjunction. For all of you grammar nerds out there, an adversative conjunction expresses opposite or contrast between two statements. This provides a natural negative connotation while using “and” is additive and a more positive impact.
While “and” is additive, using the word “now” provides an opportunity for continued success. It implies that there are even greater things to come. Use of the word “but” leaves you with the feeling that it could have been better; if you had tried harder, if you were smarter, if you were any good.
How many times have you recognized the good deeds of a teammate only to follow it up with constructive criticism? You are only trying to help them get better and reach their full potential. BUT your advice was not received the way you had hoped. The good vibes you created were quickly dismissed by pointing out areas to improve. I am guilty.
Using Now to Show Potential
Compare and contrast the two statements:
“I like the way your presentation came together, but if you had provided a solid wrap up with some specific examples of outcomes it would have really hit a homerun.”
“I like the way your presentation came together. Now if you provide a solid wrap up with some specific examples of outcomes it will really hit a homerun.”
In the first statement, “but” is a limiter. It separates what you did from what you should have done. It creates a past event and reflects backward on how it should have been improved. In the second statement, “now” is an expander and enables you to reach greater heights. The power is not in exchanging the words but in the message that the word “now” helps to deliver. By moving from the past tense (“if you had provided”) to present or future tense (“if you provide”) it enables you to focus on the future outcome and the potential instead of the inadequacy of the presentation.
In my 3 Pillars of Impact: Varsity Edition, I talk about the importance of Courage to Challenge. In the varsity edition, I highlight the difference between spending time talking about What We Did versus What We Need. What focuses on what happened in the past, the negative. The other focuses on what is possible.
“Now” is a promotion. “Now” is ready to take the next step. “Now” is “oh, yah, watch this!” Words matter to people. As leaders, we should always encourage and talk about the future instead of criticizing and focusing on the past. Change your mind set by using “now” to move Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.