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Three Simple Words That Will Change How You Manage… Forever

Hey you, great advice giver. I have some bad news for you. That advice you like to give that you think is so valuable; it's not.

Most of it is unhelpful, and it hinders personal growth for yourself AND the person you are trying to help.

I recently listened to Brene Brown's Dare to Lead podcast. She interviewed Michael Bungay Stainer, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less: Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever and the Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever. (That last one is a humbling read!)

I hate listening to Brene Brown because when I listen, I cannot multitask. She and her guests drop at least 7 OMG-I-need-to-write-this-down phrases per podcast along with a few holy-cow-this-is-perfect-to-include-in-my-product-for-managers. And mention at least one I-need-to-look-up-that-study-and-write-about-it. It's impossible to get anything done while listening to her!

Anyway, during this podcast, Michael Bungay Steiner dropped a three-word phrase that has changed my life.

Maybe I'm late to the party.

These three words are the most powerful words you can say before you conclude your work plan conversation with your employee with cancer.

These three words also require you to have a little faith that the right answer will come and you need not fix anything!

When an employee has cancer (or someone we know), we tend to look for ways to fix it, as if the feelings of powerlessness, fear, loss need to be corrected. When one is in the fix-it mode, one makes assumptions about their employee with cancer that cause one unconsciously to say stupid, hurtful, and thoroughly unhelpful comments.

These three words will help clearly understand the employee with cancer’s biggest fears and if you say them repeatedly over a period of time, they will endear you to your employees forever.

They can be used to support anyone who needs to talk, anywhere, at any time.

These three words require courage and the willingness to keep your mouth closed, your mind open, and understand that you do not have all the information.

These three words are not for everyone. Only a few have the strength to utter them and then to wait. They force you to admit that your ability to manage an employee with cancer lies not in being transactional but in being relational.

Ready to hear what these three words are?

"And what else?"


This small phrase has rocked my world!

I've been using them when I coach to fantastic success. I recently used it on one of my kids. I used it with an employee who showed up crying on a Zoom call.

I've used it in my journal writing.

Here are some results of my using those three words.

"Wow, this conversation has been so helpful. Thank you." All I did was ask, "And what else?"

"Thanks for listening, mom." from one of my kids. All I said was "and what else" three different times.

"I don't think I need to take this further. I guess I just wanted someone to hear me out. I know what I need to do." from an employee who was struggling with their manager.

Powerful, right?

A.W.E. + silence + faith in your employee’s ability to know what to do = wisdom and growth.

As Einstein said, "If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions."

Spend the time asking, “And what else?” and those five minutes may be the most powerful session of creative solutions you may ever have experienced.

Be brave. Show up. You matter.

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