It's The Words That Matter


The higher in the organization you go, the less your job becomes about business and the more it becomes about people. It’s people who execute the strategic initiatives. It’s people who interact and build relationships with your clients and partners. It’s people who drive the company forward.


And, the single and most important tool you need in order to lead people is your words.


Words have power.


Words motivate or deflate thoughts, hopes, dreams, and actions. Words have the power to excite, inspire, elate, sadden, frighten, anger, or give hope. Language is behavior. What you say matters. It shapes your environment, your work, and your life.


Because of this fact, honing your communication skills, choosing the best words, and recognizing their impact should be on every leader’s personal development agenda.


Here are 4 areas of focus to increase the effectiveness of your communications:


1. The Power of Repetition

A strong leader says one thing a thousand times. A weak leader says a thousand things one time.

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found this simple truth:

"Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Your team needs to have clarity and understanding of your strategy and your expectations. Find a way to synthesize it down into simple words that can be easily understood, repeated, and woven into all of your communications over and over and over.


As a young salesperson, my company had a focus on increasing the sales of a few key products. These products were high growth, high profit, and solved a lot of customer challenges. There were 6 of them, and they were printed on the back of our business cards in addition to many other communication vehicles. Every time a sales leader entered the room, they queried the sales professionals in the office what those 6 products were. We had reports on the progress and recognition for those who were making sales in these areas. No one had a lack of clarity on our focus. In fact, if you asked me today, nearly 35 years later, I could still recite these products.


2. Have a mantra.

“Just do it”

Our Butler Street mantra is “We help companies, and their people grow.®” Every meeting we have centers around how well we are doing this, where we have success (and why), and where we are finding challenges (and why). It’s at the heart of what we do. It’s what we rally around.


3. Protect the emotional system

Leaders must recognize that even their whispers sound like shouts to the people who report to them. Studies show that 80% of an employee’s decisions and behaviors at work are governed by how they feel. How they feel about their boss and how they feel about the team they work with.


Keep Maya Angelou’s advice in mind when using your words:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Look for opportunities to show empathy, vulnerability, and support. In October 1944, Patton defined leadership as "a capacity for telling somebody who thinks he is beaten that he is not beaten.”


4. Key Words at Key Times

In our leadership development series, we help leaders understand and use Key Words at Key Times to connect with their people better, build lasting relationships, and increase engagement.

  • Yes, And…instead of No, Because

  • Should vs. Could

  • Empathy vs Sympathy

  • Mood Elevator

  • Effective conversation starters

  • I’d like to hear more

  • I have time

Do you remember the words and kind acts that encouraged you as you were starting in business? Perhaps a teacher, a coach, or a relative changed the trajectory of your life, all with the way they spoke to you.


Sometimes a single word can change everything. Choose them wisely.


As we continue to experience "The Great Resignation" and low employee engagement, the answers lie with the leaders and their ability to influence thinking. Butler Street has been recognized as a 2021 top 10 leadership development company, for the 3rd year in a row. If you or your leaders are striving for higher employee engagement, effective communication, and strengthening company culture, contact us.