Sick of Being a “Yes-But” Leader
I immediately thought of something that didn’t go perfectly, when a leader on my team joyfully said, “Today was as good as it gets.” He was thinking operationally.
While he talked, I thought of things that could have been better.
Five reasons you don’t celebrate success:
- Fear of complacency. Others grow complacent when leaders celebrate too freely. Right?
- High standards. There’s always room for improvement.
- Competition. You’re always pushing yourself.
- It’s all about the next step not the last step.
- Bad overshadows good. You notice what’s wrong before what’s good.
There’s always a, “Yes – But” in the back of my mind.
- “Yes, things went great. But, did you notice (insert something that wasn’t perfect here).”
- “Yes, you did a great job. But, you could have been better when you ….”
- “Yes, things went well. But, think we were lucky.”
Four ways to celebrate like a real leader:
#1. Successful leaders love specificities:
- What went great, exactly?
- What were you doing when you did a great job?
- What do you enjoy most about the results you achieved?
#2. Don’t add your ounce of bad to their gallon of good.
- Separate celebrations from conversations about improvement. Have an occasional celebration lunch. No improvements allowed.
- Allow success to stand on its own. Be happy when others are happy. Don’t allow a negative word to escape your lips.
- Say thank you when you receive compliments.
#3. Go on gratitude walks. No corrections or improvements allowed. Just give specific thanks to everyone. If you can’t find a point of gratitude for everyone on your team, you’re failing your team.
#4. Hold monthly, “Make it Better” meetings.
- Create a structured outlet for improvements so you can celebrate freely at other times.
- Avoid saying, “What’s wrong?” Start saying, “What could be better?”
- Create champions of “better”. Who owns this improvement?
What prevents leaders from celebrating freely?
How might leaders create patterns or systems that free them to celebrate?
It hit me right on the nerve. I’m a “Yes-but”!!! thanks for the recomendations. BTW, this is a great post, BUT, you wrote “once” instead of “ounce” in #2… :o)
Too typos in your blog today. Thought you’d want to know… You mentioned ounce and gallon in one sentence but ounce ended up as once.
Towards the end you commented on complimenting people but it says complement instead of compliment.
Love reading your blog. Thanks!
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Lisa!! Much appreciate.
PS I think you meant two not too. 👍
Dan, For many years, since being greatly influenced by Susan Scott’s great book, “Fierce Conversation” and mostly eliminated the the word “but” from my vocabulary and generally use the word “and.” That has also helped me be less of a “yes-but” leader as I can celebrate with others and then say things like; “and I wonder how we can build on that” or ” and we can continue to make progress by…” The change of “but” to “and” has been powerful for me.
Our pastor Larry Osborne talks about ‘gratitude walks’, but I had not thought about the application in this post. Great idea, thank you!
Someone once told me that I should ignore anything that came before ‘but’ in a sentence. – J
How do I explain to my boss (the CEO) that numbers 1, 2, and 3 are valid but not for this kind of discussions? Many discussions the CEO has with my teams or my peers’ deflate because of 1, 2, and 3. I have coached as have others for specific situations, but off the cuff the CEO can sometimes fall into this trap. I need to help the CEO understand why it deflates. Thanks
It is important to take time to appreciate the positives in everyone, even those that might be difficult to work with or supervise. They have strengths too, and recognizing them is a way to help motivate or empower them.
I love the idea of gratitude walks. They can improve morale, possibly create better communication and can be seen as creating a culture of health and wellbeing. I’m adding them to my list of wellness programming tips for companies.
Many times ‘and’ is a better choice than ‘but’. ‘But’ is somewhat negative, but ‘and’ is able to get across the same idea for improvement with a more optimistic sound.
“but” behold the underlying truth
“But” allows options to develop or become negative too. At which point it could be said “however” we could do this, perhaps in a more positive sense! Depends on ones intent!
“But”, as always open to interpretations and meanings, many times taken out of context.
Yes, it is amazing how powerful the impact of that “ounce of bad” to the “gallon of good”.
As an Operations leader the next “opportunity” is always knocking at the door, and in the past I had struggled to face the good without looking over its should toward the door.
Today I have greatly curtailed my use of the word “but”.
However, I am sometimes challenged not to think it when a team member openly celebrates an accomplishment that may seem routine to others.
That’s another topic for another day.
Thanks for continuing to share.
A leader whom I respect once told me that “rarely does something good come out of buts.” It’s been hard to forget and has helped me reduce the use of “but”.
Great reminder Dan. I have worked so hard on NOT being this kind of leader but your 5 points ring so true in my head, even after many years of working on this I was amazed how quickly I could connect with those points. My best solution was finally coming “clean” with my team and acknowledging my flawed approach in this regard and literally apologizing for the many “buts” I’ve given life to over the years. Further I’ve given (especially my senior team members) them permission to hold me accountable for celebration only moments.
And when looking for specificities, be intentional and authentic. Don’t rain on the celebration with inquisition-like queries that may sound positive to a “yes-but” leader. I would avoid questions altogether and begin with: “I’d love to hear more about your great day …”
I love your “Gratitude Walks” suggestion! I am going to gratefully steal that one 🙂
Thanks for great post!
Excellent article and especially the “Gratitude Walks”. I would always make sure to thank everyone involved and also if we received a note from a customer thanking us for something I would make sure it was posted so that everyone knew that what they did was appreciated.