Try – attempt to do
Commit to Power. Action.
Will – going to do

I regularly drive by a billboard that says, ‘never stop trying to try to quit smoking’. It drives me insane! The message is clear. It is an endless cycle of trying without end or promise of success and completion. The reader only needs to commit to trying, not succeeding. I understand the intent of the billboard; it is meant as encouragement. Never give up. At the same time, it presumes and conveys failure. Imagine how much more powerful the message would be if it read ‘stop trying to quit smoking, just quit smoking today.

The same principle holds true in our work conversations. Language shapes us more than most of us really know. We don’t consciously think about the words we use, yet they do have a big impact on how we internalize our words and ultimately behave.

Yoda’s “Do or do not… there is no try,” Nike’s “Just Do It” and an infamous Charlie Sheen rant on Nike’s slogan all point to common ground: try most often ends in not doing it. As soon as we say try, we give ourselves an out. We subconsciously leave ourselves a possibility of not doing it. Worse yet, the message we just sent to the listener was one of uncertainty. We have only committed to trying to do it, which most often means we won’t even start. It will be on a non-existent ‘To Try’ list, and never make it to the real ‘To Do’ list.

The word try not only de-powers yourself, it de-powers teams, collaboration, and most importantly productive action. Because the individuals within the team don’t know if they can count on the outcome, productivity and progress are stalled.

Collaboration Challenge

In this challenge you get to observe others. Notice how others commit (or don’t commit) when they use the word try. It can be simple things such as ‘I’ll try to get that report out,’ ‘I’ll try to make it on time’. Create a new list in your journal to track the use of the word try in others, and the impact it has on you and your team.

5 Words That Kill Team Productivity

This post is number two in a series about the 5 words that kill team productivity. Read more about the other 4 words that also kill team productivity.

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