October 24, 2023

Weaponizing "Yes, and," and a Life-altering Zoom Feature

There are times when "yes, and..." sounds suspiciously like "no, but..." in disguise.

I do my best to pay attention to ways that positively intended models or recommendations can be weaponized at work. It’s helpful to see the shadow side of our best efforts, and I want to share one that I’m seeing these days.

We all have heard of the idea that relationships are aided when we approach others with a “yes, and” consciousness in lieu of a “no, but” mindset. The former phrase was inspired by improv classes, and I hear it often in work and personal conversations. Just the other day I said it to my partner, asking that we both aim to be more conscious about finding the part we love about the other’s approach and add some focus there. For two lawyers in a relationship, this is a pretty helpful tip.

As I shared my thought with Eliot, I realized that I have started to notice a misuse of “yes, and.” There’s a sense that we know we should operate from that context, but there’s a tone and an intent that contravenes the additive basis for the statement in improv.

It goes like this. Bob says “I think the reason for our churn issue is X.” Sarah says in response, “Yes, AND, I think it’s a completely different reason.” Note the emphasis on the “and.” The “and” is being used as a “but” but sneakily hidden in a publicly endorsed phrase.

As with all communication and all the conscious leadership approaches, when they’re used from below the line, manipulated to endeavor to manipulate others into thinking we are curious, open, and positive even when we’re closed and feeling right, the impact of these tools declines.

If you hear this in yourself or another, you likely can feel in your body that the tone doesn’t match the words. That’s the hint. That’s the context around the content of the verbalization, and it’s worth watching. I notice I react similarly when someone asks a question that feels like an argument or a judgment: “Can you please tell me why you decided to do it this way?” That is not a curious question. It’s an argument in a rhinestone mask. Similarly, I find some people are superb at hiding defensiveness in the guise of explanation. Bob says: “Sarah, I’m nervous that your analysis rests on a faulty assumption.” Sarah says without taking a breath: “Bob, hold on a minute and let me show you all the reasons that support my approach.” Sarah’s tone matters here, but I encourage my clients to look out for calm explanations as a potential head fake for rightness and defensiveness.

Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to intent. And check to see how both of those align with the words you’re speaking and hearing.

One other thing:

This is life-altering for me because I run a lot of Zoom meetings that require all the participants to answer check-in or other questions in a sequence. I like Zoom to feel like we’re sitting in a circle. In the past, I’ve called on people to ensure everyone does get to answer and the group has some sense of an order. I never have liked having one person choose the next person to speak because I worry some people forget who has and who hasn’t spoken. I know I do.

So the whole thing has been a technical friction point for me.

Today, I was facilitating and “hosting” a meeting in Zoom, and I clicked on the “View” button in the upper right. I noticed what I think was a new option: “Follow Host’s Video Order.”

I was stunned by this, but I confirmed after clicking on it that it does what I most want it to do. It gives every attendee in a group meeting the mirror video order that shows up on my screen! Now, people can speak in “order”, in a virtual “circle” without any intervention from me.

Even better, I tend to move people around in longer meetings so someone I might be missing at the bottom is back in my consciousness. In addition, I move a person who is speaking up to the top row to be closer to my camera so they have the impression of eye contact. This feature moves everyone’s order when I make changes like that.

I don’t know if this merits time in your attention span through this blog, but I am finding it game-changing. Give it a try!

Okay. Okay. One LAST thing:

I have relaunched the Real Leaders Podcast as the Hey Sue podcast. It’s at Apple and Spotify and everywhere else you get your podcasts. The goal for the new format is to do real, authentic, direct, live coaching with leaders. I’ll be partnering often with Leah Pearlman as our coaching styles are so complementary. Check out the first episode in our new format as we coach Yong Kim, CEO of Wonolo.

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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