Coaching: Replace the word “But” with “And” — Boost team morale

Today’s blog post about coaching is going to be short and sweet. I wanted to share a very simple yet powerful tool for aligning team members towards a constructive, results-oriented performance culture. Here it is: replace the word “but” with “and” — at all times.

Let me give you an example. Instead of coaching an employee by saying, “Kim, you did a great job at cleaning the washroom today but you forgot to replenish the hand towels,” try saying, “Kim, you did a great job at cleaning the washroom today and a reminder for next time is to make sure we remember to replenish the hand towels!” If you’ve been an employee at any point in your life, I imagine you would agree that the latter coaching communication from a manager would be more respectful and appreciated. In turn, would it not also boost your team morale and desire to work for that particular business? Based on my professional experience working with retail managers and their front line employees, the answer is usually yes.

This subtle gesture is extremely powerful. By leaving the negative-oriented word “but” in your coaching vocabulary, you run the risk of discouraging employees’ efforts by eclipsing your positive comments with the negative comment following the word “but”. By using the word “and” instead, you imply to the employee that they are doing a decent job and an additional constructive improvement can be considered next time around.

From personal coaching experience, this tactic has been very useful to boost team morale and to get alignment on executing an instructed task. Moreover, I have been told by my direct reports that it has increased their respect for me as their manager. Finally, the Association for Talent Development asserts that “…positive reinforcement is arguably the most essential ingredient of coaching because there is power in positive influence,” which reinforces the insights above. The word “and” has a positive implication, whereas the word “but” has a negative connotation.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions or would like to learn more about team leadership. Alternatively, please leave a reply below to start a conversation — I love hearing from my readers! Thanks.

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