Ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat?” As I watch my waist line expand and contract during and after vacations, I certainly know what that means! So I don’t think its too far a stretch to believe the words we use — what we ask others to ‘eat’ — define what we become in the minds of followers. Through 25 years of consulting on PR, strategy and leadership I’ve landed on three very specific words that I hope you never use in your leadership. Drumroll please:
Issue. Should. Change.
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At best, these three words automatically trip the “snicker-meter” — you know, when people chuckle under their breath and roll their eyes? At worst, they trigger a fingernails on the blackboard reaction that causes people to cover their ears and run for cover.
Lets start with issue. Can you think of a positive use for that word? How do you respond to a voicemail or an email, when the sender starts with “we have an issue we need to discuss.” There are so many specific words that can be substituted for the word ‘issue’ that I hope you bury that word right now.
Lets move on to should. Good leaders want strong, independent followers who are fully capable of succeeding on their own merits. And strong independent followers really don’t like being told what they “should” do. Leaders who rely on should insult that people they are trying to woo. Unless someone looks you straight in the eye and asks with genuine sincerity: “What do you think I should do?” You’ll be more effective if you do a funeral for the word “should” today.
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Finally, the Oscar goes to…change. The book “Who moved my Cheese?” was very popular — not as a purchase, but as a “gift.” So many CEOs were inspired by the tale of mice with a change message that they collectively gave more than 4 million copies to their followers. (It helped that is was a small, very inexpensive book.) That book caused the collective corporate American snicker-meter to resemble the Rickter scale! Recently, A new CEO within one of our clients said this refreshing phrase: “we don’t need to ‘change’ — we need to get better, and fast. If we stop to make time for a ‘change management’ program, we will be even farther behind.” The roll of Managers is to help us get better in an organized, professional way (and some are better than others.)
What substitutes might we consider?
Issue = items, ideas, worries, concerns…or even “things.” Good leaders will say: “I’m worried about something, there are a couple of items you and I need to talk about soon.” To label things as “issues” is to unnecessarily pull out the scare card.
Should = could, might, consider. Good leaders will say: “Here is something you could do…at least something I recommend you consider.” Being told you “should” do something unnecessarily makes one feel talked ‘down to’ like a child. Do you want to be known for that?
Change = advance, evolve, accelerate, improve. How can anyone quarrel with these phrases: If we don’t advance, we will die. We need to accelerate the way our enterprise is evolving — at the current pace we are falling behind. If something isn’t working, improve it!
I’ve been around enough to know that some leaders might read this viewpoint as tripping their snicker meter (roll the eyes): “Batz is just a spin-meister.” And yet, semantics — the study of the meaning of words — is an excellent competency for any leader who wants to move ordinary people to extraordinary accomplishments. Unless you want to live on a steady diet of Snickers bars.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]