Yeah, but no, but yeah, but …
Marshall Goldsmith likes practical and proven methods. He’s not a man to beat about the bush. As a world-renowned business educator and coach, Goldsmith’s singular ability to get results for top leaders has drawn over 150 CEOs and their management teams to transform their thinking and bring about deep and effective changes in their workplace – and their own behaviour.
One of his secrets? The ‘No, But, However’ theory.
Here’s what Goldsmith writes in his MG Thinkers 50 Blog. ‘An easy habit for people who like to win to fall into, and a surefire shortcut for killing conversations, is to start a sentence with “no,” “but,” or “however”. It doesn’t matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you say these words, the message to your recipient is “You are wrong.”’
These three words, however you configure them, exhibit a lack of interest in exploring options and being open to the perspective of others present.
“That’s true, but I think that misses the point ...”
“Yes, but let’s remember that ….. “
“I know. However, the thinking around that has been …”
“No, that’s not what we’re talking about here …”
“Well maybe that’s the case, but if we look at past examples…..”
To Marshall, using of these words is a clear indicator of one’s leadership style. And it’s characterized by an underlying competitiveness and power play.
Does that sound like you? If you’ve answered ‘Yes, but…..’ then perhaps you need to read on.
The presence of these tiny inflections in your speech patterns and your thinking habits means other contributions in the debate sink into a kind of twilight zone for you. They may as well not be there. They’re irrelevant.
It leaves the other people in the conversation wondering whether commenting is in any way worthwhile, or having a future opinion is worth the effort.
When you occupy a leadership position, or any role of authority, it can be easy to override the ideas of others, and call upon your own view as the prevailing one. There’s no doubt that developing a presence as the other style of leader - a collaborative one - takes time and patience. You’ve got to listen to all those other views, think about them, maybe even incorporate them into your own thinking!
However, (did we really say that?) - the payoff can be golden. It builds a team of diverse thinkers, confident that they have the right to put new and interesting points on the table. Ultimately it builds the capacity for your business to make strategic progress, and innovate … without you.
It’s radical, but true. You may remain there, but your business and your colleagues thrive all around you. And if you get called away, take a sabbatical, or want to move on, you’ve created a successful and independent team – that’s a great legacy.
Think about taking this test. For the next few days, make a mental note each time you reply with “No,” “But,” or “However.” Why not make an actual note of it too – you may be surprised when you refer to it later. Go the whole hog and ask your team to help. Encourage them to call you on it! Brave enough? You’ll find that this elevates the quality of your guidance, and your team’s collaborative engagement.
The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit, believes Goldsmith. We think it’s a simple technique that we could all benefit from!
(We should say at this point, that’s not Marshall in the pink tracksuit.)