I made another one of my “collective consciousness” presentations today to a group of teammates, and afterwords one person came up to me and said “gosh, this is sure different than most management presentations I used to get at my former job – they’d try to say something good, but always add a “but” to it that would almost always send us out of the meeting with our heads down instead of up“. Why do some managers always have to add the “but”, I wonder? I certainly think it’s OK to talk about areas of improvement – it just needs to be put in a different context, instead of serving as an immediate “negater” of a positive statement.
Context really is critical – I put it hand in hand with common sense as a key to good communication for leaders. The simple sequence of talking points can make a huge difference. I probably use “but” more than I should as well (at least I didn’t do it this morning, thankfully) – it’s so easy sometimes to say something like “I’m really happy with our progress, BUT we still have a long way to go“. What a roller coaster.
Maybe one can simply put it in reverse, so at least the last thing a person hears is the positive statement, like this – “Although I realize we have many things we have yet to accomplish, I am very pleased with the progress we’ve made” . Better? I think so. These subtle changes can make a big difference. Thankfully, my teammate provided me this morning with a great reminder to keep the “case of the buts” from infecting my presentations.