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Mattson Enterprise, Inc. | Islandia, NY

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I wish I can say this wasn’t a normal occurrence, but it is.

Does this sound familiar on any level? Think back to when your management team outlined their 2019 objectives, including how they will accomplish them and by when.

You hear:
● My plan calls for 6 recruits this year. I figured I will need X amount of 1st interviews to accomplish this. I am aiming for 4 of the 6 to be college recruits or career changers.
Your response:
● Everyone (yourself included) claps in admiration. Can you believe it! In 2018 the plan called for 4 but they hired only 2, and this year they targeted 6. Isn’t that great?

Um, when did everyone get happy ears? This crazy dance is insane on both sides of the fence.
Why you ask—wishy-washy words.

Leaders, you know what I mean, those indecisive phrases full of grey matter. Certainly not black or white. Definitely not definitive. They are words that when said, really don’t mean a whole lot.

Use of wishy-washy words—I'll try, I hope, We'll give it a shot, That's what I expect to do—is the way your people get out of making commitments.

And, more times than not, managers will receive and accept these wishy-washy commitments.
They convert these so-called commitments into their plan. Now the leader of the firm, agency, or region has a plan they are committed to achieving, yet their plan has a foundation on super shaky ground. This causes most leaders to spend most of the year chasing their own managers trying to get those wishy-washy commitments met.

This is a true recipe for disaster!

So managers, instead of repeating the same vicious cycle described above when you're having a conversation about commitments, or goals, or when reviewing plans with your team, be very concerned when you hear wishy-washy words. Here are just a few I heard in Q4 alone:

● “I believe there is a good chance I’ll hit my numbers this quarter.”
● “If……..then we should be ok.”
● “We will probably earn their business.”
● “I hope I'll achieve this.”
● “If my plan stays its course, we'll do this.”
● “If my recruiter keeps doing what they need to do, we will most likely recruit two new advisors.”
● “I can only do what I can.”
● “Of course I will do my best to…”
● “What we decide, we will pursue.”
● “I anticipate that we should.”

All of these phrases are tactics to avoid making real commitments to success. They are dead-end roads. You cannot successfully forecast numbers nor use these unclear commitments as a barometer to meeting your quarterly or annual objectives, which in turn means your bonuses. Wishy-washy words actually work against your income.

First, you must actually hear these crazy words or phrases. We have for too long accepted them. Heck, some of you actually use them yourself. Before we can learn how to get rid of wishy-washy words, we need to actually hear them.

Go find four producers and ask, “So how are you tracking for hitting your weekly/monthly goal?” Then ask, “So what do you have to do to get back on track or exceed your goal?”
The actual goal isn’t important, instead just listen to what they say. Stay focused on the words.

Ask your managers if the new hires will hit their minimum production by the pre-agreed timeframes. Or how their sourcing is tracking. Again, stay focused on the words.

By the way, you (as a leader) will also need to eliminate all wishy-washy words from your dialogue. Stop using them and stop accepting them.

It’s time to stop the madness and get your team to stop using wishy-washy words. There are strategies I use with my clients to assist them in eliminating this terrible communication trend. And, when used consistently, work extremely well in eliminating unclear commitments.

Stroke, Repeat, Reverse

Remember, you need to hear words like: “I will.” When you hear the other words (like, “I hope”), use this very simple technique called stroke, repeat, reverse. Here’s what it sounds like:

Producer: “I hope to get $1.1M out of this vertical.”
Manager: “I appreciate your sharing that with me [stroke], but can you help me understand when you say you hope to get 1.1M out of that vertical [repeat] what does that mean [reverse]?
Your objective is to eliminate wishy-washy words.

Realize the first time you use this with someone, most will pause and stare at you. They are thinking something is wrong with you or that you didn’t hear them. Most of the time they will reword their original statement as in, “Well, I believe if we keep trending at this rate we should be fairly ok hitting that marker.”

Most of the time, one wishy-washy word will get you a handful of them. Here’s what I mean. There are several wishy-washy words that have more than one meaning.

Well, I believe if we keep trending at this rate, we should be fairly ok hitting our marker.

Know it may take 2, 3, or even 4 times of asking for clarity to get real commitments. Almost all leaders this is taught to are sadly blown away on how many people use wishy-washy words in the workplace.

Keys to remember:
1. Recognize what a wishy-washy word is.
2. The same sound of a commercial truck backing up, BEEP, BEEP, is what you should hear in your head when a wishy-washy word passes by your ears.
3. Use the technique stroke, repeat, reverse.
4. All of this will take a few times to get clarity.
5. The more you demand clarity, the less they use wishy-washy words.

Everyone says they want a culture of accountability and ownership, then ensure you and your entire team uses words that say that.

Clarity is such a key ingredient to success. You don’t want to have wishy-washy words come from you or your team. Over the next couple of days, be more conscious and actively listen for those wishy-washy words. Make some notes on who are your biggest users and adopt some of the suggested strategies to eliminate those noncommittal phrases. You’ll be setting yourself and each member of your team up for such incredible success!

Remember to do a little bit all of the time, not a lot some of the time.

I’d like to hear how avoiding wishy-washy words is working for you. Please reach out to me via LinkedIn and let me know how it’s going.

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