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Leaders: How to Unlock the Power of Words

(posted: November 29th, 2011)

Words are powerful vessels. They can inspire or deflate an individual or a team in seconds.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

John Quincy Adams

Ask yourself this:

  • What do your words do?
  • Do you have useful conversations that inspire people to be better people?
  • Does your communication result in your employees succeeding at their jobs?

I believe some of the most important responsibilities of a manger are to:

  • Evaluate employee performance
  • Provide honest feedback
  • Clarifying what they have done well
  • Communicate on what they need to improve

As John Maxwell shares:

"An effective leader can describe what good performance looks like."

The Power of Words

Most of us would rather have a root canal (without the Novocaine) than to give an employee feedback about poor performance. Particularly when it relates to a behavior based issue. Yet we eagerly discuss, or more accurately complain, about these issues to colleagues, friends, or family.

"So, what stops us from providing feedback to the employee?"

Yes, the idea of proving feedback is '''very important, but certainly not easy. Some challenges my clients have voiced to me include:

"How do I:"

  • Deliver bad news without killing communication or motivation?
  • Help my employees succeed by providing feedback on their performance throughout the year and coach them to help them succeed?
  • Help my people set goals and understand the difference between good and bad goals?
  • Figure out how well they have done in achieving their goals?
  • Make meaningful discussions occur?
  • Set myself up for success to handle the appraisals confidently and successfully?
  • Develop and implement a follow-up plan to measure progress or lack of progress?

"Words are powerful vessels. In a second they can transport us from one state of consciousness to another."

Igniting Words

I love what words are capable of igniting inside of us:

  • A new awareness
  • An astounding insight
  • A shift in perception

Things that we were not aware of, and could be just what we need. In that same second, words can also tear us up and kill every ounce of motivation we have.

"A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, and has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you can be."

Tom Laundry

When providing that very important and candid feedback to your employees, ask yourself this:

  • What process and planning do you take?
  • What do your words do?
  • How do they feel when they walk out of your office?
  • Do you feel inspired or deflated?

Communication is Key

The timeless words from the great German novelist and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are a timeless invitation for us all:

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Many of you are in the process of delivering performance appraisals before the end of the year. If not, you certainly have the opportunity to share feedback with those that surround you. Both in your personal, and your professional lives. Here is my invitation to you over the coming six weeks (and beyond):

  • Inspire your employees and family to do more and become more.
  • Prepare and work to play the positive force to assure individuals and organizational health and job success.
  • Engage in those important conversations to build the skills of your managers and employees.
  • Set wise goals that truly test the limits of their capabilities.
  • Communicate with honesty in a non-threatening way.

If you do this, I can guarantee you will be an instrument of inspiration.

"You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say."

Martin Luther

So, where do you stand on communicating with your employees?

Challenge Yourself
  • Are you using words in a powerful way to help your employees succeed?
  • What plan of action are you taking to become a successful leader by carefully choosing your words?
  • What do you need to do to become an instrument of inspiration?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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