Eliminating the Buts

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The only thing more important than the language you use are the actions you take with both contributing to the perceptions that others have of you. Recently, I watched a CEO speaking with a large group of employees talking as though he were a champion of his people, yet, his language betrayed him as he created an image that his words were merely false praise. A few examples of his comments included:

“We had a great first quarter, the best ever, but I know we can do even better than that.”

“Our Net Promoter scores for customers service are at their highest levels to date, but we are still having some customer complaints in areas where we could be doing better.”

“We have a great company and a great team of people, however, I know we can take this up a notch. Don’t settle for the great success we are having today because, if you do, all you’ll have are memories of a good past.”

Here was a Harvard educated, highly successful CEO of a reputable company saying one thing while communicating another. As I watched the audience, you could visibly see the discouragement in their faces as he lathered on the praise then shaved it away in one stroke with the words “but” and “however” followed by the comments that came after. In talking with the CEO he knew, from watching the audience, that something was wrong, yet, could not identify the issue. When I pointed out his choice of words he acknowledged his shock that something so simple could have such a huge, negative impact. Humbly, he asked me how he could have phrased his comments differently, and here is what I suggested:

“We had a great first quarter, the best ever, AND I know we can build on this success in the coming quarters.

“Our Net Promoter scores for customer service are at their highest levels to date, AND we will be rolling out plans as to how we will use this momentum to continue to increase customer satisfaction.”

“We have a great company and a great team of people, AND we will continue to leverage the people-power in this organization to make our company even greater.

Often, all you have are your words. Choose them carefully. Eliminate the contradictions, including all of the buts, howevers, and other words that negate all of the positive things you say and do.

Scott WintripEliminating the Buts

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