Thursday, September 5, 2013

Playing with Words: No More Buts!

Guest post from regular Great Leadership contributor Rich Wellins:

 About a decade ago, I heard the words for the first time:  I don’t necessarily disagree with you”.  The phrase was used by a colleague at work in the midst of a discussion on how best to approach a sales situation.  I’m sure he was not the first to use the six words in sequence.  However, fair to say since then, I have heard it dozens of times.  It’s usually followed by a single word.  You guessed it – “but”.  I hate it.  In fact, I rather the person just tell me that my idea was off-the-wall. In a world where innovation is crucial, leaders need to do a better job of listening and building on the ideas of others.  Four simple tips:

1.    Listen carefully to what others have to say.  But, listen to understand, not refute.  I can’t tell you the number of times I was ready to pounce on someone before they were halfway through their first sentence.

2.     You plus upon other people’s ideas.  It is a simple technique that works like a charm.  Build upon others’ ideas to make it better.  An example:  “Mary, I love your idea to write a story for our newsletter on the team’s new R&D project.  May I plus that by suggesting we also do a short internal video interview with the team?”

3.     Another tougher technique is to ask questions about the feasibility of a particular idea or opinion.  My boss is an expert at this and gently leads me to realize how dumb many of my suggestions really are without making me feel stupid.  Or, by asking questions he helps me improve my original idea.

4.     Finally, if you do disagree, say so respectfully with your reasons why, or, if possible, offer a better alternative.
Let’s reduce the number of “I don’t necessarily disagree”.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D. is senior vice president of Development Dimensions International (DDI), and is an expert on leadership development, employee engagement and talent management. He is responsible for launching DDI’s new products and services, leading DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research (CABER) and its major research projects and developing and executing DDI’s global marketing strategy.


YarOn Stern said...

But I don't necessarily disagree with you...

This is so true yet no matter how you articulate your spin, there will always be those who hijack/borrow/take-possession-of the buzz phrase and take it on its natural journey to the drain.

Innovation in words is definitely a challenge, opportunity and responsibility of anyone caring about the true issue at hand. What is the true issue at hand? Everyday it might be something else. This is why leadership is such a compelling yet elusive topic of discussion.

James Strock said...

No ifs ands or buts--you're spot on! :-)

Simply removing the word "but" from one's vocabulary can be quite a useful exercise. I strive to do so. As often as not, peppering one's sentences with "buts" is lazy and self-serving.

Thanks for a fun and thoughtful post.