Stop Using these 3 Words or Phrases : “Step Up”, “But”, “Potential”

We have all been there, done that and said it.  What would happen if we stopped using certain words or phrases during performance review.  What am I talking about?  The top 3 most common “dreaded” words or phrases:

  • Step Up:  Yeah that’s right, you have heard it.  Personally I have heard it and sadly I have used it.  What does it even mean?  It’s used as if everyone knows exactly what it means but truth be told really don’t.  At least not to person hearing it.  “You need to step up.”  What does that mean?  Step up to what?  Instead of “step up”, what would be a specific feedback that would help the employee to improve?  For example, “You need to step up on your leadership of the team.”  To the person hearing those words, what does it mean?  Does it mean “I need to shout louder so that people know that I am in charge?”, “I need to act more arrogantly so that my team knows that I am their leader”.  What could you say instead of using the words “Step up”? Managers don’t be lazy.  Think about the feedback that you want to give to get your employees to either reinforce or rectify a behaviour.  Remember, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be specific, impact driven and suggestive for actions.
  • “But”:  The dreaded “but” word.  No one ever hears or retains anything before the word “but”.  What other options do we have to communicate areas of improvement or focus.  “You are doing well but you are careless with the details.”  What does the person hear?  “You are careless and in trouble.”  What could you say instead of using the word “but”?
  • “Realise your full potential”:  Potential.  What is that?  Who judges that?  What is the basis of that judgement?  Is the benchmark against what we have set for ourselves?  Every one of us has “potential”.  Potential to be great, good or average.  The area that needs to be highlighted is what is useful to be developed further and what is not useful to be de-emphasized.

If you were to play the Taboo word game, what would you now say to your employee.  How much thought would have to go into preparing for the discussion or review?  What would you say differently?


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