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if you are a entrepreneur accustomed to working for yourself, you may not think much about your impact of words on people But if your entrepreneurship has grown into a business complete with employees, managers, and coffee makers, you may need to rethink your stance.
The words matter. Using a single wrong word here or a nasty word there can make the difference between a nice, productive discussion and a negative exchange that can have lasting repercussions.
This is particularly true in business leadership situations, where a single word can make or break an interaction between a leader and an employee or team member. Words matter a lot because they can determine whether or not your leadership is effective. At the very least, the wrong word can lower your degree of leadership effectiveness when you’re working so diligently to optimize it.
The truth is, effective leadership is all about achieving results through relationships. Senior leaders are in a position to have to do most of the work through others. Otherwise, they don’t have time to work on the vision and strategic objectives, that is, looking on the horizon for what is needed in the long term to achieve the long-term vision. With this in mind, words become the master sail, guiding conversations to take the best path to performance.
Evaluate the impact of each word that can be used in a leader and employee interaction It’s a bit of a Herculean undertaking. That being said, four specific words deserve the most significant level of attention and scrutiny based on their ability to derail a business discussion or elevate it.
In my opinion, two of the words should be on the “no fly” list; that is, they should never be used in any conversation between leader and employee or even between leaders. They will invariably produce the opposite effect to that intended. Unfortunately, many leaders still use them regularly without truly understanding the potential damage they can cause.
The other two words are “antidotes” from the first two entries. When used as substitutes for the two harmful wordsthey can change the entire direction of a discussion while generating the positive impact the conversation was intended to have.
The culprits: “Why” and “But”.
The Saviors: “What” and “And”.
With such an impressive buildup, you might be disappointed by how simple and innocuous the four words seem. But I can assure you that its power to inspire achievement or stifle enthusiasm is not to be underestimated.
The first entry, “why,” is a terrible word to use when you’re involved in Performance management — even if you want to understand why your team member performed a task a certain way or are curious why one of your C-suite colleagues followed a specific course of action. It doesn’t matter how neutral or benign you use the word; you can use the best shade possible and put bouquets around it. Once it enters our head, the term “why” immediately puts us on the defensive. Our brain interprets it as a form of judgment. It makes us think, “I’ve done something wrong; now I need to defend myself or explain myself.”
(By the way, if you want to see precisely how the word “why” creates such a defensive posture, try it with your spouse or partner. As you know, it creates a high degree of defensiveness. The reaction is visceral; they are more likely to stopping a moving freight train than preventing this reaction).
So how do we short-circuit the backlash generated by the word “why”? We just bring our four-letter superhero, “what.” Substitute the word “what” for “why,” and the whole dynamic of the discussion changes. Immediately, when “what” enters the scene, it asks, in an objective and unpretentious way, that you tell your activity or action; there is no judgment and consequently no defensiveness. You are just asking for information without an agenda. It conveys the message that it is simply trying to understand. Examples are:
- What prompted you to do (the task or action)?
- What was the reasoning for (the task or action)?
- What was the thought process behind (the task or action)?
The word “but” can be even worse than “why.” “But” is like “why” on steroids. “But” has the power to negate any statement uttered just before, regardless of how positive it may have been.
For example, suppose you say to a team member, “Karen, you did an amazing job on that project, but I would have liked to see it a little sooner.” The “but” changes the full tone and the tenor of the statement. What started out as a compliment quickly morphed into a perceived denigration of the person’s performance, no matter how minor the infraction.
Think about it: in the example with Karen, you are trying to recognize something that it was done well, then build on that positive statement with something you’d like to see done next time: take a task done effectively and offer a way to further improve that performance. However, it does not carry itself with “but”. It has the opposite effect; Delete the first part of the declaration.
In short, the word “but” has no advantages.
You’ve probably figured it out by now: The word “and” provides a great way to avoid the “but” dilemma. So now he could say, “Karen, I love what you did with that project, and next time, I’d like to see it sooner.” Allow the first sentence to land and the person to listen to it. It is also a neurolinguistic signal that you want the person to take the next step, and this is precisely the next step.
If you want to make this approach even more successful, use “and” in another way: “Karen, you did an amazing job on that project. How about running it earlier next time?” Now, you have asked a question, a question about what the person thinks. So while the first use of the word “and” is acceptable, the second is an attempt to get “buy-in” from the team member.
As a bonus, you’ve also allowed your employee to let you know if an earlier delivery time is possible. In the first instance, few team members will say no; They’ll say, “Sure, I’ll do it.” The second example allows a team member to say yes while providing an opportunity to raise any concerns about potential issues with request fulfillment, which can then follow up by asking the team member for suggestions on how project delivery can be achieved. previous.
The obvious question is, how hard is it to remove “why” and “but” from your vocabulary, two words you’ve probably used for quite some time, and replace them with more empowerment-focused alternatives? If you follow a systematic three-step approach and work at it daily, you can change the pattern faster than you think.
The three steps of the approach are:
- Be aware of the pattern: You mentally write it down every time you say one of the two words. You can say to yourself: “I am using the word and now I am aware of it.”
- interrupt it: When you realize that you are running this pattern, you should interrupt it as soon as it starts. You must recover as soon as possible and step on the brake. You could even tell team members to look for the pattern; They will probably be glad that you asked for their help in self-improvement.
- Run the new pattern: You say “what” instead of “why”. You say “and” instead of “but”. Every time you do that, it starts to form a new neural pathway that will take hold relatively quickly.
There is a ton of data showing that it takes about 66 days for change a habit and much less time to change a pattern of behavior. This is because habits live in our conscious mind; behavior patterns are formed and live in our unconscious mind, the latter processing infinitely more volume and speed than the former. It’s a minor change that will make a big difference in your leadership effectiveness, and it will happen faster than you think.
Words are important for many reasons, one of which is the way they reach our brains from a neurolinguistic perspective. Certain words we use in a business leadership role can make team members join the corporate journey or seek a different journey. Having such a huge impact with so few words is a journey worth taking.