“Actually.” It’s a word so neutral, it must be harmless. Right? Wrong. As a news editor and leadership consultant, Adam Bryant has sat in thousands upon thousands of meetings throughout his career. Drawing upon this experience, Bryant shares why “actually” may be hurting team performance.
“Tom sent me the proposal, and it’s actually pretty good.”
“Yeah, that suggestion actually came from Jane.”
“I actually like that idea.”
These three examples may sound benign at first, but, Adam Bryant explains that using the word “actually” to talk about our colleagues has a strong detrimental effect. “The obvious problem is the subtext,” Bryant says. “It signals that the person speaking was expecting less from the colleague, who somehow exceeded those low expectations by actually doing good work.”
In order to remedy these unintended, insidious effects of language, leaders must embody the change they’d like to see. “If leaders consistently undermine their people, they will also undermine the expectation that their people will do the right thing, whatever the context. If that expectation goes away, so, too, does motivation.”
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