The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter April 29, 2015

I agree with everything you said, but . . .

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In the strategic planning meeting, the CEO jumped in just after the Sales VP proposed a solution to a long-standing company weakness.

“I completely agree with your solution to the problem but isn’t it too costly?” said the CEO. However, the Sales VP heard this to mean: “I lied when I said I agreed with you; now here’s what I really think.”

But can be one of the most negative words in the English language. Adding the word but to the end of any statement can erase everything you said up to that point. Worse yet, it can put the listener into a nearly catatonic state where they dismiss everything you say next.

This construct is particularly damaging when giving praise. For example, you might say: “That was a great job you did on the Acme project but it’s only a start.” Your employee hears: "I don’t appreciate your hard work."

If your intent is to build on the other person's statement, there is a simple change you can make that will eliminate the negatives – just replace but with and. “I agree with your solution to the problem and I’m going to work with you to figure out how we can pay for it.” “That was a great job you did on the Acme project and we can build on your success."

When your intention is indeed to say "no," speak more directly. “No, we can’t do this” or “No, your assessment is wrong because of this.” When you say it this way, you are more likely to be heard than if you use the oleaginous word but.

Reading this newsletter, my editor Kate Hannisian was reminded of lessons learned from a friend who teaches improv (as in improvisation) and offers workshops to companies in which she teaches them improv techniques that they can use in the workplace. The first and most important rule: "Never say but, say Yes, and…” because but shuts everything down, while yes and opens it up.

Create a strategic plan with your team

The single biggest problem in communication
 is the illusion that it has taken place. --- George Bernard Shaw

A well-facilitated strategic planning process is a proven way to make sure that your senior executives understand and prioritize current issues from every point of view. A professional facilitator can sustain the discussions to enhance your team's ability to listen and communicate. A good strategic planning process helps you create a plan for capitalizing on long-term opportunities while optimizing the value of your company's current reality.

How long have you been saying that you will develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc


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