Our words matter. What you say to your people has an impact on their world. Words can build people up or tear them down. Words can demonstrate recognition, insight, and wisdom. Leaders need to make sure they communicate positive, uplifting words to their people on a consistent basis. When they do this, they unlock the potential of their employees.
The words you speak to yourself are just as important as the words you speak to others. If you wake up and your immediate thought is, “today, I will see the good in everything.” Say it out loud and those words becomes an affirmation. The tone for your day has been set. At the same time, if you get up and think, “today is going to be miserable,” those thoughts can come out as negative words without you even knowing it.
In most of my coaching work with clients, I make it a priority to use words to encourage and support their development. Sure, there are times when my clients need tough love. There are situations when I have to deliver hard feedback and say things that they may not want to hear. That comes with the job as an organizational psychologist and executive coach. However, in the long run, it is more powerful to speak words that build people up.
In your own leadership, how do you use words to support the development of your people? How much thought do you put into what you say? How do you respond to people? What is your intent? How does your response affect the way others see you? Do you communicate things clearly? Do you ask for things or demand them? Our firm believes there are five ways to use words to impact your team.
- Using Words to Set the Vision: When setting the vision for your team, you have to use words that focus on the future. Words that talk about what’s possible for your people and the organization. You have to use words that will promote togetherness and a sense of mission and purpose. That’s really important during these challenging and uncertainty times. Right now, your people are looking for hope and something positive to help them cope with any anxiety or worry about the things to come.When words about the vision are used at all levels of the organization, employees will feel that there are strong strategic objectives in place that will drive the business forward.
- Using Words to Engage and Inspire Your Team: The words you use to promotes alignment and agreement are important. What you tell your team to a build culture of collaboration allows people to partner together effectively. You have to use words that focus on the group’s collective efforts. Words that support a focus on the power of camaraderie and fellowship. The great leaders inspire people by having a rallying cry for the organization. They use their influence for the good. They respect the views of others and work to create an inclusive environment. One that motivates all of your team members to contribute their best.
- Using Words to Communicate Expectations: You have to hold your people accountable to driving results. When your messages are clear and straightforward, people understand what they’re expected to deliver. Your words help clarify roles and job responsibilities for your team members. You have to be respectful of people, but clear about raising the bar on performance. Your words can get people laser-focused on execution. If your words are encouraging and supportive, people will strive for excellence. If your words are harsh and discouraging, performance will suffer. Your people will lack the confidence to learn and grow. People will be slow to make decisions because they will worry about getting things wrong. They will act out of fear rather than a place of empowerment.
- Using Words Using Words to Develop Your Talent: Your intentional use of words help develop peoples talents and capabilities. When your supportive, and show an interest in helping people improve, they will be committed to their growth. Coaching and providing feedback is critical here. When you take the time to offer guidance and advice, people want to learn. I often recommend that my clients find time on a consistent basis to discuss their peoples’ development. You should meet with your people one-on-one to work through their personal goals and objectives. In these meeting, what you say matters most. If people feel that you have their best interests at heart, they will listen to your counsel. If you criticize their efforts, they will not look to drive changes in their behaviors. Remember, your words have the power to build people up or prevent them from growing as leaders.
- Using Words to Promote Innovation and Creativity: If you want your people to strive for continuous improvement to processes and procedures, you have to use words that inspire innovation. You have to champion, advocate, and recognize innovative solutions across the enterprise. Your words have to encourage others to challenge one another’s thinking and contribute to ideation activities. Your words allow team members to safely learn through trial and error and to fail forward in a safe manner. The power of your words can help people develop new ideas and improvements. Make sure you encourage diversity of thinking at all levels of the organization. Every employee has ideas. Some of these ideas may not be practical, but by using your words to encourage people they will keep coming to the table with new thoughts and perspectives.
As a leader, what you say to others really matters. Your words can transform vision into action. They can engage and promote collaboration. They set expectations and get people focused on the right priorities. Your words help people develop and grow. They get people to think creatively and strive for continuous improvements. Remember what you say is just as important as what you do. If you want to have a lasting positive impact on your people, teams, and organizations use your words wisely. The success of your organization depends on it.
Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership development and organizational effectiveness.
For more information about this or other leadership topics, visit our website at www.bandelliandassociates.com.
Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.