Without realizing it, you may cast gloom and doom over your team. It’s all in your word choice.
Repeatedly framing issues in anxious or fretful terms stokes worry. Using phrases such as “Let me share a concern” or “This is a grave problem we cannot ignore” contributes to a nervous, downtrodden staff.
Replace those negative statements with “Here’s an idea” or “Let’s bat around some solutions.” This signals that you expect everyone to conquer the challenges they face.
When you speak in terms of “I wonder if we try …” or “What might work is if …,” you introduce exciting possibilities. It stirs the imagination to explore what might be.
To extract more creative output, exchange ideas, insights and action plans. Resist snap judgments; instead, allow employees to build on each other’s suggestions through joint brainstorming.
Before poking holes in someone’s proposal, wait for others to tweak it. By facilitating free-flowing idea sharing, you enable people to figure out on their own what can go wrong and then how to plug those gaps or plan for contingencies.
It’s fine to focus on the negative on occasion. In the midst of a crisis, leaders admit their concerns and level with employees about what’s at stake. As long as you save these “I have a concern” moments for truly dire circumstances, you’re on the right track.
— Adapted from “When Your Fear Holds Back Your Creative Thinking,” Josh Linkner, www.joshlinkner.com.
Online resource: For more information, see “A Manager’s Guide to Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace.”
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