Three Letter Leadership

By: Todd Gehrmann, CEO

Simplicity is not simple. If it were, then everything would be easy. And it’s not. People in positions of power have a tendency to overcomplicate. They build consensus. They hold meetings. They crunch data in their decision-making. All of this can be helpful when making decisions about complex matters. However, the most powerful ideas are often the most simple.

Lincoln delivered the 272 words of the Gettysburg Address in three minutes.

Steve Jobs insisted that the iPhone have one button and simple was his mantra.

Three-letter leadership is about using simple words to achieve superb results.


And is as close to an invisible word in the English language as you can get. It is used hundreds of times a day throughout conversation. So why does it make the list? And is inclusive. It implies that there is more, or if used as a question that you expect more. “And” can be powerful if used properly and in the context of leadership. I recommend using it in two ways. When sharing expectations, “I’d like to see the latest sales report and get your opinion on how we can improve our closing rates.” Or when gently pushing someone to give you more, “And?”


As my friend AJ likes to say, “but” is just a passive aggressive no. This is one that tends to be used more in a negative way. Nonetheless it is still a powerful yet simple word. It should be used in limited quantities and carefully. If during a performance review I say, “You are doing a great job, but…” what comes next is what is truly being heard by the recipient. Try using “and” in place of “but” and see what happens. Your message becomes one of hope. It becomes more forward looking than rooted in the past. “I think you are doing a great job and…”


Yet also implies a positive outcome. It is an inspirational word when used well by a leader. “Q2 is off to a good start. We haven’t hit our target yet.” If you tell a mentee that you think that she is making progress but needs to do more, using the word yet lets her know that you believe in her ability to achieve the goal. “I like the direction you are heading even though you have yet to complete the task.”


The word how opens up the door for important dialogue that you can use to provide leadership, insight, and expectations. If a direct report is working on a project and is providing a progress report one of the best questions you can as is “How?” How are you approaching this challenge? How have you tested this? How are you planning on completing this on time? This three-letter word provides you the opportunity to lead in an inclusive way. You become part of the solution and you get the detailed information you need to lead effectively.

There are dozens of powerful three-letter words that will make a difference in the way you communicate and the way you lead your team to achieve results. What are some of your favorites and WHY?

To learn more about how you can become a better coach, mentor, or manager contact FOCUS Training today at or apply to become part of the next Accelerate Institute class at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s