My recent piece in strategy+business on the power of reframing leadership conversations through a more intentional use of the common conjunction, “and” received a lot of attention. It is the habitual use of such seemingly simple practices that helps differentiate truly effective leaders from the also-rans. “And” is a powerful way to engage and connect. Here is an excerpt:

The complex issues with which executives wrestle today — global supply chains, multigenerational workforces, and political polarization and instability, to name a few — are not solved through simple bifurcated choices. They require more nuanced thinking. And can provide the needed stimulus.

The first person to bring the power of and to my attention was my colleague, Leonard Marcus, founding codirector of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard. Whenever I sent an article or book chapter related to our shared work on crisis leadership to Marcus to review, it would come back with each but crossed out and replaced with and. He explained that over his many years of researching and teaching negotiation and conflict resolution, he had discovered a certain magic in and because it subtly reframes whatever topic is on the table.

For example, imagine that a direct report asks for permission to work from home two days a week. If you respond, “I understand your desire, but I need to ensure coverage in the office,” there is an implied denial of the request. An alternate reply of “…and I need to ensure coverage” is an invitation to mutually solve a problem. The shift of one word acknowledges each person’s interests as legitimate and recognizes that there are issues to be resolved. It creates an environment for positive dialogue.

This is just one of three contexts where this three-letter powerhouse demonstrates its usefulness. Read them all in the original piece.