Banish “yes, but” from your vocabulary! Premium

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“The project sounds great, but this isn’t the right time.” “I’d love to share my ideas, but I’m a terrible speaker.” Sound familiar? While we all have valuable insights and skills to offer our companies, we almost always raise objections when asked to leave our comfort zone. What can be done to overcome our proverbial and counterproductive “BUTs”?

impossible vs possible motivation concept
Whether directed inward or outward, saying “but” is an unconscious way of asserting your comfort zone and, in turn, limiting your potential range of action. This ordinary, seemingly inoffensive word is actually a fierce enemy capable of overshadowing your skills and creativity. It is especially dangerous because the person who utters it is often unaware of its impact.

1.Look for your BUT in the mirror: When it comes to the know-how and ideas you bring to your workplace, do you feel confident yet underappreciated? If you haven’t tried yet to see yourself as others see you, it’s worth taking the time for introspection. Try to answer the following questions about your aptitude, personality, and behavior: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What kinds of activities make me feel empowered? What do I find tedious and discouraging? What do I believe in? Who are my “friends” and “enemies” and why?

2.Solicit help from a Truth Teller: To pinpoint your BUTs, consider asking for help from a person in your circle who is brave enough to reveal what you need to know. If you get a direct answer, listen to what the person has to say all the way to the end — don’t interrupt or try to defend yourself! And if something said is not clear, ask for further explanation. Finally, show appreciation for what your Truth Teller is doing for you. His or her feedback is a sign of trust and esteem.

3.Tackle your problems: Is it a behavior linked to your personality, or does it reflect a skill weakness? When you undertake to conquer your shortcomings, you must face the issues honestly and straightforwardly. Clearly state that you intend to overcome your BUT and follow through with targeted action. Deliberately seek out high-risk situations in order to practice dealing with them differently.

4.Create a no-BUT culture: Managers are in a better position to initiate open discussion with their team members and help them identify their BUTs. Once everyone’s BUT has been clarified, managers should try to pair up people who can compensate for each other’s shortcomings. For instance, if one member of your team is good with concepts but not details, he or she should work with someone with the opposite profile.

Read our dossier :
Banish “yes, but” from your vocabulary!

Based on Kiss Your But Good-Bye by Joseph and Robert Azelby (HarperBusiness, June 2013), “Comment donner et recevoir un feedback constructif ?” by Benjamin Azancot (, March 2013), and “How to get feedback when you’re the boss” by Ann Gallo (HBR Blog, May 2012).
Business Digest nº 241, november 2013.

Watch the video :
The Azelby Brothers Discuss the Symptoms of a Big BUT

Meet Joe & Bob Azelby, the visions behind the 2013 J.P. Morgan’s Summer Reading List selection, “Kiss Your But Good-Bye: How to Get Beyond the One Word That Stands Between You and Success”.