Almost every client that I work with is trying to improve teamwork, to build strong relationships, to build solid communication across the organization, and with their client companies.

One of the easiest ways to ‘hit the wall’ and destroy teamwork and morale is for leaders and managers to be heard by their staff making destructive comments about coworkers, vendors and clients — anything like put-downs, character assassinations, and gossip. I think most of us have been guilty of this, whether frequent or not.

Let me tell you a story. One of the truly unique executive coaches is Marshall Goldsmith. I like his style and I think he likes mine! I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing him several months ago. He’s the king of feedback and gives a lot of it. Apparently, he also asks for it – from customers and staff. What a novel idea!

Some time ago, one item his colleagues noted where he could improve was to ‘avoid destructive comments about other people.’ He scored worse than 92% of the people in the country on a 360 degree assessment – one that he developed!

Now, being an offender, and not permitted first offender status, he decided to improve and break that habit – in fact, he decided to pay his colleagues $10 if they heard him make any more destructive comments about another person. Turns out that cost him $50 before noon the next day. And the day after it was $30. On the third day, 10 bucks. And he says that it still costs him money, but that he’s make remarkable improvement, a process only costing him several thousand dollars!

So why not try this out and say to each of your colleagues, “If I make a destructive comment about someone or another group, just say to me ‘five bucks’. And I’m going to donate the money to charity. I’d like you to do the same thing with your team.” There are plenty of charities who can use help from your self-improvement.

It won’t be long before you think before you speak, and when you do, ask these questions regarding what you are about to say:

1. Will this comment help me or our company?
2. Our customers?
3. The person or people I’m talking to?
4. The people I’m talking about?

And if the answer to those four questions is ‘no,’ I’m going to give you an incredibly simple strategy to implement. One that won’t require a coach to help you take action on.

Don’t say it.