Stop saying 'just'! 5 small changes that spark big differences


Have you ever noticed that some of the biggest impacts on your career can come from the slightest tweaks made to your working style?


Perhaps you’ve bolstered your confidence by way of a single morning mantra, mentally repeated while you’re brushing your teeth. Maybe your relationship with the boss improved exponentially when you started seeing the world from his or her perspective. Or the energy levels in your team weekly meetings went from zero to a hundred when you changed the time of day they’re held.

Sometimes the act of stopping one behaviour and replacing it with another can be a huge catalyst for change in your career, sparking a whole host of knock on effects that leave your colleagues wondering where the old you went. Discover some of the small stop-starters you can implement today and get to know the women who already did.


Stop saying just

Tech veteran and advisor to Google, Facebook and Microsoft, Ellen Leanse made headlines in July 2015 when she published a LinkedIn blog insisting that women stop using the word ‘just’ in their communications (as in “I just think…”, “I’m just wondering if…”, “I’d just like to say…”). She noticed the trend when she began working for a company whose employees she described as whip-smart and wired for success and yet who frequently used what she refers to as a ‘permission word’; the equivalent of “a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking ‘Can I get something I need from you?’.”

“As a team, we started noticing when and how we used ‘just’ and outing each other when we slipped. Over time, frequency diminished. And as it did we felt a change in our communication – even our confidence. We didn’t dilute our messages with a word that weakened them. I believe it helped strengthen our conviction, better reflecting the decisiveness, preparedness, and impact that reflected our brand,” she wrote.

“Maybe now that you’ve read this, you’ll heighten your awareness of that word and find clearer, more confident ways of making your ideas known. In other words, help take the ‘J Count’ down. Take the word out of your sentences and see if you note a difference in your clarity – and even the beliefs that fuel the things you say.”

Action point: Strike a deal with a trusted colleague who sits in close proximity. Call one another out on your justs or other apology or filler words (“sorry”, “um”, “like”), and congratulate one another when a more assertive, clear and concise version of yourselves emerges. Find more tips like this in our Powerful workplace communication workbook.


Stop connecting with strangers on LinkedIn without doing this one thing first

Quality over quantity is the first rule of networking, but as you look to expand your connections and the visibility of your online brand, you might be tempted to accept an invitation to connect from a complete stranger – after all, isn’t LinkedIn about growing your network? If that’s your approach to online networking it could be that you’re what personal brand expert Jennifer Holloway calls a LiON (LinkedIn Open Networker), “for whom the idea is: I’ll connect to anyone, because the more people I’m connected to, the more people who could help grow my business/offer me a great job/whatever else I’m looking for”.

She goes on: “For me, the minimum criterion for sending an invitation to someone is that I’ve met them or, at the very least, have had a conversation with them in person, on the phone or via email.

“Which isn’t to say I don’t accept invitations from people I know little about BUT they’re never a ‘complete’ stranger. Instead, they might be someone who was in the audience when I delivered a presentation. The reason I know those things is because they took the time to personalise their invitation and tell me why they wanted to connect.”

If you have previously been either in LiON mode, connecting with whoever asks, or a ruthless rejecter of anyone who fails to personalise their invitation, there is a helpful middle ground:

Action point: Email the person, thank them for their message and tell them you are wondering why specifically they want to connect (visit the ‘invitations’ section of your inbox; click on the arrow next to ‘accept’ and select ‘Reply (don’t accept yet)’ before adding in your message). Maybe they’ll reply that they’re interested in a particular aspect of your work, or maybe they’ll already have a project in mind that someone with your expertise is needed for. By accepting you’ll know that you’ve just meaningfully added to your quality network; if you don’t hear back it’s likely they’re playing a numbers game that offers you little value. Discover more LinkedIn tips in our workbook Making the most of your online profile.


Stop doing the same thing every day

A fact of working life is that there’ll be an element of routine in your day to day – an hour spent clearing your inbox; a regular team meeting to go through the same roster of updates; the weekly data report you pull together from the usual sources. But small tweaks made to non-compulsory habits can make a huge impact, specifically on your ability to creatively problem solve.

Psychologist Dr Simone Ritter’s research has shown that even the simple act of using a different method to make your usual sandwich can result in unblocking creative pipelines and allowing new ideas to spring forth.

Action point: Shake up your routine. Choose a different morning break snack; visit a museum in your lunch hour; find space to work in a new environment when you need to move beyond ‘stuck’ thinking; get a fresh perspective in team brainstorms by inviting colleagues from different departments. Discover more tips like these in our workbook Unleashing your creativity in the workplace.


Stop taking no for an answer

Building resilience to the emotional impact of rejection needn’t mean learning to deal with ‘no’ time and time again. While dealing with disappointment is a great coping strategy to have in your repertoire, the ability to manoeuvre around brick walls ultimately leads to greater satisfaction.

“An interviewer caught me on a bad day,” recalls one everywoman Network member. “I knew I wanted a higher salary than the one being offered, but even though I really wanted the role, I was inflexible when the interviewer tried to negotiate around the package, and it wasn’t all that surprising when the answer came back ‘no’. Rather than chalk it up to experience, I invited the hirer out for a coffee. I admitted my mistake and reasserted my interest in the company. It was too late for that particular role, but when a similar contract came up a few months later, I was the only person they called.”

Action point: When facing a brick wall, consider what other paths could lead to your desired or a similar outcome. You might want to use our tried and tested brainstorming techniques to really thrash out the problem, before putting your solution into practice with the help of our workbook Developing your negotiation skills.


Stop using morning caffeine to boost your productivity levels

The hormone cortisol is the naturally occurring steroid that your body produces in response to stress or a fall in blood sugar levels. It helps you rise to challenging situations and aids your focus and concentration levels. It’s naturally at its highest first thing in the morning for up to an hour after waking – just the time when you’re reaching for that pick-me-up cup of tea or coffee.

But with your fight or flight mechanism already operating at its peak, that morning caffeine injection is unlikely to really give you the boost you’re craving. Hayley Pedrick from nutrition and lifestyle consultancy The Nutrition Coach explains: “People use coffee as a performance-enhancing aid, but first thing in the morning is often the last time it’s needed. It’s much better to reach for that stimulant when cortisol levels naturally dip – mid-morning, after lunch or later in the afternoon. It’s those times - when attention levels also tend to crash - that you’re likely to get more out of it.”

Action point: Keep an hourly diary of your concentration levels and how your ability to focus on tasks fluctuates throughout the day. Notice when it’s more difficult for you to devote yourself entirely to your work, and when you are easily distracted. Once patterns have emerged, time your stimulant intake – preferably in the form of healthy snacks and drinks – with those periods of the day when your productivity needs a helping hand.