AND not but

Almost all of us have stakeholders and relationships at work that require collaboration, and providing service to others. In an increasingly complex business world, we all tend to “serve” others. It used to just be professional services firms that strived to be “trusted business advisors” to their clients. It used to just be that you served your boss (managing up) or your staff (managing down). IN corporate finance departments, staff used to just fill out spreadsheet models or create reports.

Now we all must strive to be “trusted business advisors” to our stakeholders. Corporate finance departments are striving to understand the business better and be side by side with the business units they serve; IT departments strive for “high levels of service” to their internal customers; HR business partners have to build relationships across the spectrum of the company to fulfill their service expectations.

A few months ago I attended a CFO Academy with my peers at Deloitte’s training facility in Texas. My six-word review: Great facility, great program, great people. One of the best lessons was also the shortest and easiest to learn in concept, much harder to implement in practice: “AND not but.” We role-played this rule and saw the impact of it first-hand; I think it is a powerful tool to build stronger and more collaborative relationships in the workplace, relationships built on trust. Here’s an example:


A – The Cavaliers are obviously going to win the NBA Finals this year, they are a team of destiny.

B – No way, Golden State clearly has a better offense, they are going to run Cleveland off the court.

A – Whatever, they can’t get past Cleveland’s defense.

B – But with all the injuries Cleveland has suffered their defense is going to be weak.

A – But you don’t understand, “friend” – I have been rooting for Cleveland since my childhood – they were the one stable thing in my life when my parents were getting divorced.

B – But I can’t help it if your blind faith is going to lead you to a bad bet in the sportsbook.


A – The Cavaliers are obviously going to win the NBA Finals this year, they are a team of destiny.

B – I certainly appreciate your support of them, and I’d like us to consider whether they can stop the league-leading offense of Golden State.

A – That’s a fair point, I realize what a challenge they present; and I know the strong culture of team defense that Cleveland has will win the day.

B – I applaud their focus on fundamentals, and I know they will need that with all the injuries their star players have suffered.

A – True, and I now realize how difficult it will be to win, but I will always support them as they were the one stable thing in my life when my parents were getting divorced.

B – I love that attitude, and while I hope you never lose that passion, just make sure you think about the facts before placing a bet on them.

Using “AND not but” has several advantages I think you can see in the example:

  • Builds rapport and empathy. Have you ever heard the tip about sitting on the same side of the table with someone when having a discussion with them? It places you literally and figuratively “on their side.” Same thing with “AND not but” – you might have a different viewpoint than the other person, but you can still be on their side. Many times at work, that is the exact missing ingredient to so many relationships: a corporate department head trying to convince a business unit leader that they aren’t “out to get them;” or a service provider trying to explain that while a policy won’t allow the specific request to be fulfilled there are other alternatives.
  • Allows for constructive debate. When we facilitate meetings, we want conflict – terrible meetings are ones in which no one participates – but we want the conflict to be constructive. When we use but, we risk things getting personal, off track, and not productive. AND gives us a chance to work through the conversation. Yes it might take a bit longer, but the result will be a more effective conclusion, and a stronger relationship.
  • Gives others a chance to reach their own conclusion. No one really likes being “told” things, it’s much better if we get to the answer ourselves. So we should strive to let others do the same, and get to the idea/conclusion/realization on their own. AND facilitates that by extending the conversation and inserting new information in a positive manner.

I hope you will take time to practice “AND not but” in your work interactions. Be intentional, slow yourself down and stick with it. I think you will see positive results in the form of stronger and more collaborative relationships built on trust.


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