Well But’s Are Dream Killers….Or Are They?

Have you ever been tasked to find a solution to a problem and bring your ideas to the next team meeting? I am sure all of us have been in this position because that is primarily what we do during team meetings, right? We have a problem and we find solutions. So, you are tasked to bring this great idea that would solve a problem and make life easier for everyone. You get so excited because you imagined this great idea, you even took the time to envision how and why it would work. You cannot wait to bring it to the team. You finally get the chance to deliver this idea and it is met with not only silence but a creeping noise of bodies shifting, eyes darting around the table at one another, searching for someone to say something. You get the feeling that your message was not well received. Then it is confirmed when you hear the deadly two words of – well, but . . . 

Photo credit to Patricia Yocum

Well but’s are dream killers. Because they are always followed with every barrier and obstacle someone can throw at you. Not enough resources. Not enough time. Not enough . . . it feels like the stack of well but excuses will be too much to jump over. Yes, we need to think of every angle, but sometimes if we only think of barriers we will be in jeopardy of cycling through ideas that have the potential to create castles instead of walls. 

How do we limit the well but’s and move forward with ideas? Here are some items to consider:

Don’t Linger on Well But’s

Too often we allow too much time for the well but’s to catch fire. You can feel it in the meeting. The body language and energy start to sink. When you notice too many people slumped in their chairs, somber and looking and nodding in agreement with the leader of the well but’s, then you need to shift the conversation. Get the team back on track. Refocus their attention on the strongest feature of your idea. Get them dreaming of how that feature will make their life better. 

Embrace and Limit the Well But’s 

Well but’s have their place. They are not all bad. They do help us to consider potential roadblocks and force us to make a better plan. If there is a person or persons that tend to be the dream dasher, you can limit the number of well but’s in a meeting. Have fun with it and give everyone a well but card. Each card allows one well but.

Relate to the Well But’s

Acknowledge the well but’s (you may want to refer to them as concerns). Let them know you understand and can relate to their concerns. Then offer some potential solutions followed by a rationale for your solutions. If you do not have solutions, communicate how appreciative you are of their willingness to contribute and that ideas are always evolving. Showing appreciation for their foresight in potential roadblocks will only lead to a better product. 


If you cannot think of solutions during the meeting, offer the gift of time. Table any decision until the next meeting. Have teammates think about your idea and potential solutions for all of the well but’s (concerns/barriers). Every idea is a progression of ideas that balloon into a productive solution. So often, time will always reveal a perfect solution. The solution usually comes when you are gardening or cleaning your house. So, you could assign your teammates to clean their house or better yet, clean your house! 🙂

Great ideas do not come in one moment. They rely on differing perspectives, inspiration, and yes, they even rely on a few well but’s. Well but’s are good, but don’t let them be dream killers. 

*My apologies to all the English teachers out there, I cannot afford an editor. I am sure the well but’s hurt, as well as all the grammatical errors. Maybe if you encourage all of your colleagues to like, follow and retweet this article, I may be able to hire an editor! 🙂 

Vicki Lentfer

Keynote Speaker

There is nothing I love more than to connect and engage with my audience on a personal level.

Vicki Lentfer

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