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Want to be an effective Leader? You need to examine your Track Words

Good Leadership skills and practices - quote

 

A good leader knows how to lead his team to greater achievements but if the leader doesn’t mind his or her words and vocabulary, they aren’t going to be effective leaders and their stint in this role can be short-lived.

It’s even more important if you are an aspiring leader who wants to project the right image to your team members and key decision makers who hold the power to promote you to the next level or you have been newly promoted to a leadership role.

Using the right words at the right time can enhance your authority. On the flip side, you might just undermine your authority if you don’t learn to talk like a leader.

Many years ago, I was fortunate to work for a wonderful partner (I’ll call her Anna for convenience) who was a subject matter expert in my then area of specialization as an auditor. Anna was a newly promoted Partner and was still settling into her new role and style of leadership.

Her door was always open to her team members and we were encouraged to be our best. She exercised legitimate power with strong doses of referent and expert power as the leader of her team. I learned a lot from her and our small department was a happy one.

A few months after her induction into partnership we had to do a training series for the rest of the Audit staff, managers and Partners. That was when her authority and role as a leader came under challenge.

It was innocent enough, or so I thought. Our team of 3 presenters was present on all days. When the Partner was facilitating a training session, the other 2 would move around the room to help the participants with any queries and hands-on exercises.

During 1 of Anna’s sessions, I saw a few of the participants’ texting messages. I slowly walked up behind one and saw the message “25 times”. Then the reply “No make that 28”.

Strange!

During the lunch break, I took that participant aside and gently mentioned the texting that I had seen and pointed out that they were undermining Anna’s presentation by texting in class.

The participant told me that they were listening to the session but were also counting how many times Anna interjected ‘Umm’ into her sentences!

I honestly didn’t know what to say but made use of this information to make sure that when my post lunch presentation started, I had a strategy to keep everyone’s attention.

I went to a local shop and bought a big bag of toffees. When my session came around, I placed it on the presenter’s table in full view and tossed toffees at participants who answered the questions correctly. It worked like a dream.

Someone must have tipped Anna about the tracking of ‘Umms’ because on Day 3 when Anna’s next presentation came up, she spoke slowly and the ‘Umms’ were missing. Her audience listened to her and there was no texting.

My biggest take away from that experience was to always monitor how people were reacting to what I was saying for indicators of whether my message was being communicated or not because I couldn’t always manage every situation with a bag of toffees.

This isn’t a one-off incident of communicating as a Leader.

In my post about how monkeys on our back prevent us from moving on, I shared the true story of a young trainee who picked up the phrase which the partner used a lot and applied it left, right and center until he was stopped before he could do too much damage with his newfound Monkey Mania. The Partner in question became more circumspect when using phrases that might be misunderstood.

 

Leadership lesson in classroom

 

It’s not just words and phrases, we can often undermine our authority and leadership with recurring phrases that we use, often referred to as track-talk.

I remember during my consulting days when I was doing a project in Minsk, the Managing Director would start his Monday morning meetings with the phrase ‘This is something terrible’.

Fortunately the meeting was conducted in Russian and the impact of his words was lost during the translation but I did notice the doom and gloom among the hard working employees during the meeting. It didn’t matter that we got a swig of high quality vodka with our coffee and cake.

My translator couldn’t explain why he started the meetings the way he did and put it down to his leadership style, which was quite demoralizing.

 

Our words and track talk affects our Brand and Executive Presence

 

The common factor in all 3 cases – words, phrases and talk was that the leader in question didn’t even realize the impact that their words were having on others. They were using them all the time and it became a part of their brand and executive presence.

Effective leaders need to understand that their words impact others around them who are taking cues from them and this can impact the work culture whether for better or worse. It’s up to us to decide how we want to project our leadership, brand and presence.

 

3 things you can do with your words to improve your executive presence

 3 tips to improve executive presence with words

 

You can improve your communication skills as a leader. Change is always possible and starting with the small ones can lead to bigger ones.

 

Identify the words or track talk that you need to change.

 

What are the words or phrases that you find yourself using regularly whether at work or at home? Write them down.

Some examples

 

  1. Phrases like ‘do you know what I mean?’ or ‘Get the point?’ after every sentence or two suggests you don’t have confidence in the other person’s comprehending capabilities.
  2. Gushy words like ‘awesome’, ‘mind-blowing’, ‘splendid’. Leaders don’t gush, they recognize good work when the work deserves recognition.
  3. Jargon that drowns the team member or scares them. You might think that you are demonstrating your prowess as a leader and expert but sometimes, simple English or language of work helps get more out of the team when they understand what you want and aren’t wasting time checking the dictionary or technical manual.
  4. Putting a ‘but’ when giving feedback. Yes, there is something called the sandwich approach to feedback where you cushion the area of improvement between 2 bits of praise or acknowledgement though from what I know about this technique, the word ‘but’ is not used and can undermine the confidence of the other person rather than motivate them to improve.
  5. Negative talk statements – like ‘this is something terrible’, ‘this won’t work’ or even ‘I’m surrounded by imbeciles’ (I actually had a Finance Director who’d say that)

Once you have that sorted out

 

Consider the impact of your words, phrases or track talk.

 

As a leader, your words carry a lot of weight and others are looking up to you as a role model. Are you inspiring others or forcing them into the corner? Are your words consistent with the image you want to project or the behaviors you want to see in your team?

 

Consider an alternative word, phrase that you can use or what you can drop

 

Is there a better word or phrase that you can use to replace the one that isn’t consistent with the brand or presence that you want to project?

Are there words that you need to remove from your vocabulary? Like the wishy-washy ones, the ‘Umms’ and buts?

You might not even be aware of the words that you are using and while observing how others react to you is a good way to assess what you need to change, you might still hit a blind spot.

I suggest asking a colleague or friend to monitor your speech and give you honest feedback about your words or if you are too shy to ask for help, record yourself in conversation and pick up what you need to let go off or change.

This latter method works well. In one of the Leadership courses that I attended, participants were recorded during role play activities to show them their blind spot, which was then used to help them improve on their communication weakness.

After that, the only thing left to do is to practice changing it and see the results of your efforts.

Do you have a track word, phrase or talk that is hurting your brand image or  projecting the desired presence?

 

PS. I invite you to enroll in my free 5 day mini-course on Executive Presence. Click the image below to learn more and see if it fits your need.

 

Karmic Ally Coaching Executive Presence Course invitation

 

 

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Meet your coach

I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

Using a combination of intuition and analytical skills, I help my clients identify their real issues with exercises to still their mind and allow their inner feeling to emerge in a place of confidentiality and trust.

I work with driven, passionate, talented and ambitious professionals who’ve hit a speed breaker in their business or career create their desired breakthrough reclaiming control of their situation with customized strategies and tactics that work.

When my clients first come to me, they are not in a very happy place and need clarity about themselves and their chosen vocation. Their professional problems are playing havoc with other areas of their life. They know they need to take radical steps to change the status quo but they also know that they need support and accountability to get them their desired result.

I really get it, because at one point, I also experienced getting lost in my work rationalizing decisions that were detrimental to the other aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with and won battles of stress management, life balance and career decisions to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired life according to my personal Manifesto and have created a business that provides me with a platform for my desired lifestyle and self-expression for myself. I want that for you too!

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Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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