Words Have Meaning
An Article I Published on LinkedIn on August 12, 2019
As leaders, people look to us for clear messaging and direction. So it’s rather easy to use words that convey more than just the intended message. I have worked hard to remove certain words and phrases from my vocabulary. In doing so, I have realized that this welcomes an open and honest dialogue with others.
Do Not Empower, Enlighten
Empowerment is such an interesting word. The mere definition implies ownership of power.
the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties
Leaders should not be granting powers to others. Rather, we should be guiding others and awakening true potential.
Instead of empower, try: Can I show you…?, or Have you tried…?.
Trust, But Verify
This is by far one of the most heinous of phrases. I have known micro-managing types to use this phrase more often than they should. In fact, the phrase itself houses a deeper meaning:
I trust you, but…
Let that sink in for a moment. There’s no better way to tell someone you don’t actually trust them. Instead, try asking How can I help you with..?, or What are your concerns with…?
People Are Not Commodities
When we use the term resources, it completely removes empathy when talking about people. I equate this to being in a courtroom, when the prosecution uses a similar tactic to take any emotion away from the jury (mostly to persuade an outcome), by using words like the defender, the victim, etc. In all of these cases though, we are actually talking about human beings.
People are not the same thing as resources we can trade on the stock market. If we truly want change within our organizations, we have to change our mindset, and this is a great place to start. Keeping people at the heart of decision-making actually produces better decisions. Keep in mind that good decisions produce greater outcomes.
Instead of resources, try: our teams, or our people.
I Need, But Do I Really?
Have you ever found yourself saying that you need something from your teams? Have you ever used the word to convey urgency? If so, then there are better ways to get your message across.
Need has a certain tone to it. One that is quite demanding:
n. Something required or wanted; a requisite.
n. Necessity; obligation.
Is the intention to demand, or to request? If the latter, then why not actually try asking? I have started using I would like…as a replacement phrase, and the results have been astounding. People are now asking me questions about the requests that I am making, instead of just doing what I ask, which feels more collaborative.
Instead of need, try using: I would like…, or How might we…
We have a tendency to attach experiences to our interactions with others. In doing so, words take on meaning that may be deeper than what you or I are actually saying. So be mindful of your messaging, and people will respond accordingly.
If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to The Messy Middle.