In large part, you lead by what you say.
Each organization has its own distinct “cultural language” whether you realize it or not. The way you pose questions, give directives and convey information shapes how others will respond. Speaking in warm, empathetic terms strengthens your connection.
To adopt the right language at work:
• Translate complex concepts to easy-to-remember nuggets. Many companies rely on insider lingo that confuses rather than clarifies.
Illustrate your points with stories geared for a general audience. Explain organizational values by sharing anecdotes that drive home core themes. Avoid overly technical terms and don’t give too much information at once.
• Strike a consistent tone. When citing concepts such as “integrity” or “superior performance,” define what you mean. Give everyday examples of how integrity manifests itself or what top performance looks like.
Defining your terms—and doing so the same way each time—helps listeners grasp the specific meaning you intend.
• Enlist internal ambassadors to spread your message. Identify the key influencers within your organization—the employees who command their peers’ respect. Then coach them to relay important messages to colleagues. Use positive language and encourage them to adopt the same wording.
• Monitor. Review policy manuals, employee handbooks and other materials. Do they reflect a positive tone?
Confirm that all references to customers and employees are inclusive and respectful.
— Adapted from “Your Company Language,” Beth Armknecht Miller, www.greatleadershipbydan.com.
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