Are you an And or a But leader?


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One of the points I teach in our Extraordinary Coaching program is that leaders often inadvertently mitigate the praise they give their staff. It usually happens by linking criticism (which we call instructive feedback) to the praise with the word “but.”

“Nice job on the sale, but you should have showed him the matching widget.”

“That was a great event, but you came in over budget.”

“Those products were a great buy, but we need to make more margin.”

I like to tell people to keep their “but” out of their feedback and use the word “and” instead.

Look at how the praise remains positive when “and” is used instead of “but.”

“Nice job on the sale, and next time show him the matching widget.”

“That was a great event, and hopefully we can make the budget work.”

“Those products were a great buy, and going forward we need to get the margin up.”

I’ve also come to see how some leaders demotivate people with “but” even when it isn’t linked to praise. More often than not it’s the result of the leader redirecting the conversation because of a different perspective.

Here’s an example of what could take place on a district conference call:

Store manager: “We had a strong weekend and finished the week at 110% of goal.”

District manager: “Yes, but your ADS was down over $10.”

In this example I doubt the DM is even aware the impact her “but” had. Here’s a manager who is justifiably proud of her results, but the DM is looking at the possibility of missed opportunities with average daily sale being down.

I’ve also met and worked with many “But” leaders who constantly do this with his/her staff. If it is a pattern, it’s usually because of some need to be right, or maybe his/her glass is always half-empty. Whatever the reason, the result is demotivated people.

Again, most leaders mistakenly use “but” to redirect, and just like praise all they need to do is replace “but” with “and.”

Store manager: “We had a strong weekend and finished the week at 110% of goal.”

District manager: “Great, and maybe we could look at why your ADS was down over $10.”

Again, compare these two:

Employee: “It wasn’t easy but I finally got her to buy two of the widgets.”

Manager: “But why didn’t she buy a third widget?”

Now compare the subtle but important difference using “and”

Manager: “And why didn’t she buy a third widget?”

Here’s my challenge for you. For the next few days listen to how often you use the word “but” with your staff when the word “and” might have been more effective.

If you discover you’re more of a But person than you knew, you can begin to get your “but” out of the conversations with your team and start on your way to becoming an And leader.

By the way, the same approach works for parenting.


Doug Fleener is a proven retail and customer experience expert that helps companies dramatically improve their customer experience and their results. Visit our website or call Doug at 866-535-6331 to discuss how he can help you create extraordinary results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Doug Fleener
As the former director of retail for Bose Corporation and an independent retailer himself, Doug has the unique experience and ability to help companies of all sizes. Doug is a retail and customer experience consultant, keynote speaker and a recognized expert worldwide.


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