Originally Published February 4, 2015
Take a moment and consider how your leadership perspective might change if the words “but” and “or” were banned from your vocabulary . . .
That would mean you could never again say things like:
“What our client really needs is “X”, but we could never get “Y” to pay for it.”
“Do you want me to look at the big picture, or deal with the details?”
“Sure that sounds like a great idea, but let’s be practical.”
“But” and “or” limit your potential. They are creativity killers. They require trade-offs. They feed into a scarcity mentality. “And”, on the other hand, is about abundance. It is about stretching your thinking in new ways, and considering multiple possibilities. It’s about not stopping when you run into the first closed door . . . or even the second.
Make no mistake, infusing “and” in an organization can be challenging . . . some might even say not realistic . . . and yet it’s worth the effort to stick with it. When you reach a tipping point, when “and” becomes part of your culture, a new energy is released and exciting things start to happen. “And” attracts the kind of people who reach for more, who aren’t willing to settle, who have an inner drive to live your mission. Don’t believe me? Consider two organizational approaches to the same situation . . .
“This family really needs X, but our contract won’t pay for it.” (Depressing dead end, right?)
“This family really needs X, and our contract won’t pay for it, so how else can we help them get their needs met?” (Feel the energy, and the permission to be creative?)
Same situation. Change three letters — but to and — and suddenly staff are at least thinking about different options, peering outside the box to look for new possibilities. No one broke any rules, or ignored reality, they simply didn’t view the current situation as an end of the discussion. Which organization do you think is going to attract the most passionate, motivated staff — the game-changers who can ultimately help your organization succeed?
If you want “and” people in your organization, it is up to you to role model “and” behavior. Try it for a week. Stop yourself every time you respond to a challenge with “but” or “or”, and consider what new possibilities might present themselves if your approach was “and.” At the end of the week, reflect on your outlook, your energy, and your accomplishments.
Good week? Things seem to fall into place? Enthused about pursuing a new idea?
That, my friends, is the power of “and.