The Most Dangerous Word In Performance

What is the one thing you can count on a supervisor saying in 99% of all performance evaluations? Try.  It probably comes in the form of: “You can ‘try’ harder” or “Maybe you should ‘try’ to do…” or “Give this a ‘try’…” But that little 3 letter word – Try – is a very dangerous word.  Remember Yoda from Star Wars –

Fortune had a great article on the use of the word ‘try’ recently:

“Whether in a job interview, on a resume, or in the office, try simply shows a lack of belief, passion, commitment, and confidence — all the qualities you need to succeed in today’s tight job market. Grammarly’s contextual thesaurus has a whopping 66 different synonyms for try, yet none of them are as convincing as words like do, believe, act, tackle, accomplish, or succeed. While try might get you 10%, or even halfway there, employers are looking for strong problem solving skills and unwavering dedication.

I cringe when I hear, “I’ll give it a try,” because the phrase suggests failure. “I’ll do it” inspires confidence every time.”

When I coach supervisors on delivering performance feedback this is a concept I work hard on getting them to understand – the words you choose to use have great impact.  Also, the words they allow the employee to respond with, sets them up for future success or failure.  One thing I’ve always done with performance feedback is allow the employee to give me their performance objectives, instead of dictating what performance I expect.  How I coach the performance, though, is to frequently help in rewording their objectives with the words that is going to ensure they go after the performance they want – not to ‘try’ and get the performance they want.

This might seem a bit nit-picky to some – but using words the convey conviction of a goal do wonders for setting someone off on the right track to reaching that goal.  I can’t say it any better than the Yoda, Jedi Master, “Do, Or do not. There is no Try.”

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