Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A case of the "yeah-buts"

I'm in the midst of another leadership conversation.  These conversations are one of my favourite things to do in a working day.  It's very satisfying to see people change their mindset and tackle some of the problems they have been ignoring or avoiding.

There's a syndrome that I've noticed.  It's pretty serious and will make a leader's job much harder if it takes hold.  It's even more dangerous when the leader is a carrier.

It's called "Yeah-buts".  Have you encountered it?  This syndrome can creep in where ever there is a lapse of vigilance.  It is easily recognised.  Consider this:  you are the leader needing to lead a change. You have carefully considered and developed your case for change and paid close attention to how you communicate this.  You've even thought about the kinds of questions that people may pose.  You finish your presentation.  Heads nod.  There is a beat of silence.  Then you hear this: "Yeah, that's all true, what we need to do, but...".

And there it is.

What follows "but" can usually be described as defensive as people make the case to protect themselves from the change they know needs to happen.

In the current conversation leaders were talking about people they lead as "trying to do the wrong thing".  When I asked them how they knew the people in their teams are trying to do the wrong thing I was told it's obvious.  I pointed out the difference between intention and behaviour and the fact that behaviour is visible and intention is not.  Intention can not be assumed; to discover it you need to ask questions.

As people complained about the people they lead, I suggested that these people are their responsibility..."yeah-but".  I suggested that if people flout basic requirements of the job repeatedly and even after conversation, then the leaders must be clear about consequences..."yeah-but".

See how dangerous this syndrome is!  When it takes hold, nothing can happen.

What happens if treatment is taken?  What could the treatment be?  My suggestion is to replace the word "but" with the word "and" whenever it is spoken after the word "yeah".  The phrase becomes "yes-and".

Start there.  Repeat as necessary.

I hope you're not suffering from the "yeah-buts".  If you are, start treatment now.

No comments:

Post a Comment