Each of us has a person in our lives whose words carry greater weight than others. When they encourage, their words encourage us more than others who do and say the same thing. And when they criticize, their words cut more deeply than others who do and say the same thing.
Words really matter.
This is especially true if you are in a leadership position. Your words carry a significant amount of weight.
Leaders are often unaware of the power of their words. Their word choice and tone sometimes has ramifications beyond their wildest imagination. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a leader say “Well, I didn’t mean it like that.”
And they are telling the truth. They didn’t mean their words to have the consequences that they did.
If you are a leader, your words might not carry the most weight in your team members’ lives, but the weight is probably heavier than you realize.
What are just a few, small words that can have big leadership consequences? Check these out:
- No. This word is a slamming door. It leaves no room for challenge. It leaves no room for further creativity. It shuts down the conversation and motivation. Is this sometimes needed? Sometimes. But before you say “no,” make sure that slamming the door is what you really want to have happen.
- Stupid. This word is highly demoralizing. In a leader’s mind, the word may be fairly harmless. But coming from the leader’s mouth, it hurts deeply. Even if you are talking about their ideas, you are talking about them. It is a word that should almost always be filtered out of a sentence when referring to team members and their ideas.
- Never. Instead try “Not now.” Especially when it relates to systems or models. Never is a promise, and our team members and constituents expect us to keep our promises. I have seen many leaders regret that they used the word “never.” There is great pain in explaining why “never” became “now.” Of course, there is a time for “never,” but make sure that it is the right time.
- Can’t. Can’t is defeatist. And like “no” the word will slam the door. It will stop progress in its tracks. If what you really me is “try something different,” use those words instead. “Can’t” will leave team members with little room to move forward. It frustrates creativity rather than inspiring it.
A leader’s words carry a significant amount of weight with them. Be careful with the words you choose to use. You may accidently communicate something far more severe.