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Your Weekly Leadership HVA (High Value Activity)

Hello Lifelong Learner ...

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions) to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites #31: A long-time client (who I have a great working relationship with) took me aside after a meeting with his team last week and said, “I know you care ... so I know you'll be okay with me giving you this feedback ...” He then went on to tell me about an overused statement I make (“No offense ...”) that he felt was getting in the way of my professionalism and compromising my ability to communicate effectively.


As I reflected on this FeedForward opportunity, I realized he was right and that this phrase — and potentially others as well — had become so much a part of my subconscious language patterns that I didn't even realize I was saying it when I said it. [Thanks, Paul, for the nudge!]

This got me thinking; are there other common phrases — verbal miscues — that can potentially undermine professionalism, reduce credibility, and compromise one's ability to effectively convey a message?

High Value 'Avoids' (HVAs): I brainstormed this question for a few minutes and here's a list (off the top of my head) of a few that come to mind. Note: This week I'll depart from my normal HVA (High Value Activity) and reframe HVA as High Value 'Avoids' — phrases you may want to avoid if you want to be more professional:

  • “To be honest ...” or “To tell you the truth ...”: When these phrases are used there's an implication that normally you are not being honest or truthful (certainly not the impression you want to leave).
  • “No offense ...”: [This is one that I'm guilty of.] While it may be stated to defuse conflict, its use may actually have the opposite effect because as soon as you utter the words “no offense” the listener knows you're about to say something critical or offensive and be put on the defensive.
  • “With all due respect ...”: An overused phrase that was originally intended as a way of politely disagreeing with someone of equal or superior social status but in popular culture has become associated more with insult than with respectful deference. [On a humorous note, in the movie Talladega Nights, race car driver, Ricky Bobby (played by actor Will Ferrell), says something extremely crass to his team owner but he has the mistaken notion that prefacing a remark with the expression “With all due respect” gives a speaker license to insult and offend. Very funny scene.]
  • “In my opinion ...” or “In my humble opinion ...”: If you're going to state something, in most cases you'll come across as more professional if you simply state it (we already know it's your opinion because you're stating it).
  • “I might digress a bit here ...”: Don't get me wrong: I love how a good story can relate to a point that needs to be made, or how an analogy or metaphor can connect the dots for people, but by prefacing your comments with the word “digress” (stray or ramble) it can undermine the important words that follow.
  • “That's not a bad idea ...”: I suppose the fact that it's not a BAD idea is better than nothing but wouldn't this be better positioned as “That's a good idea ... let's think about how that might work ...”
  • “I see.”: This is nothing more than a polite way of saying that I hear what you're saying but I don't agree. If you seek transparency in your communications, this is an opportunity to say what you mean.
  • Ending a sentence with “Don't you think?”: This may be fine with occasional use, but I've noticed that when people frequently seek affirmation at the end of a statement it makes them sound unsure of themselves.
  • "No problem": When someone says "No problem" in response to "Thank you," they're actually devaluing whatever was done by implying that it required little or no effort. Better to simply say “You're welcome. It was a pleasure to help.”
  • Cursing: At a minimum, cursing is distracting. And, depending on your audience, can totally undermine your credibility.

Lifelong Learner, these are just a few that I came up with. I'm sure you've witnessed (maybe even used) other verbal miscues. If you send them along to me, I'll add them to the list and get them back to everyone.

Have a brilliant day ... and enjoy the journey!


Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA

RESULTant and Behavioral Engineer

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill."


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Clearview Performance Systems, Inc.

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