Choose your words wisely was a saying that I have heard people say ever since I was a little boy.  The real meaning behind words seems to become more clear to me every year.  The impact that certain words can have on others can be immeasurable.  Today I wanted to focus on a few words that we often times hear and use in the workplace. 

  • Fine.  At work, the real meaning of fine is that something is wrong but I don’t really want to talk about it.  When you ask a guest how their meal was and they say “fine” we should follow up with a question.  One great question is: what is one thing we could have done better today?  When you ask a team member how a project is going and they say fine, this is a red flag.  We need to ask them to explain in detail what they have accomplished or what still needs to be done.  When you ask a team member how they are doing and they say “fine” this is a cue that they want to say more.  Most of the time team members do not want to start a difficult conversation so they will throw out a fine or ok.  This is an indicator for us to dig deeper.  One of the best phrases to use is “tell more about ..” to get people to open up a bit. 
  • Unacceptable.  This word is one that is often misused in business.  So many leaders throw this word around as a semi threat to the team but then when the behavior happens again they don’t have any consequences, thus making the behavior acceptable.  Once the team realizes that any behavior is acceptable, they will not have any real internal pull to do what the leader is asking.  If you say something is unacceptable and then you hand out a severe consequence in response to the behavior, it lets everyone know what unacceptable really means to you. 
  • Get to vs. Have to.  I know I touched on this point before but I wanted to revisit the concept of mindset.  How you approach every situation with a particular mindset can determine the outcome of that situation even before it begins.  By approaching the situation with a “get to” mindset it turns the situation into an opportunity.  By approaching the situation with a “have to” mindset it turns the situation into a chore.  It is amazing how much more enjoyable situations can be if your mind thinks that you are looking forward to them vs. putting them off and feeling like you shouldn’t even be in that situation. 
  • Can’t vs. Won’t.  This is always the bottom line I try to reach with team members when they do not follow directions.   The first question to ask yourself is if you were clear.  If you were, then ask the team member to repeat back what they thought the directions were?  This clears up any potential issue where the team member can say a second time that they didn’t know.  We are now at a point where I have to ask if there is some reason you “can’t” perform the task or if you are simply saying that you “won’t” perform the task?  Give them the opportunity to choose either “can’t” or “won’t” and then dig into either answer to try and get a better result in the future.
  • I vs. We.  There are times in business where we need to use the word “I” and there are other times where we need to use the word “we”.  The most important time to use the word I is when you screw up and hold yourself accountable for not getting something done.  It is very easy to say we didn’t do something but this is when it is most critical to say I didn’t do something.  On the other hand when it comes to praise and accomplishment we should use the word “we” as much as we can.  It makes everyone feel like part of the team when the leader points out to others that we accomplished something together.  Please realize how much “I” and “we” can hurt others when used in reverse. 
  • No problem vs. My pleasure.  Chick-Fil-A was one of the first companies to really perfect the use of my pleasure.  What a difference a slight change of words makes in customer service.  I get so frustrated when a team member says “no problem”.  It shouldn’t be a problem at all if it is part of your job description.  The phrase “my pleasure” really conveys that your number one priority is indeed the guest.  It is almost like thanking the guest for asking you to do something. 
  • To tell you the truth.  I had to throw this in as I have a vivid memory of the president of a billion dollar company respond to someone that said this in a meeting once.  He simply said “I guess everything else you have been saying up to this point has been a lie.” 
  • Take a look at the words you use on a daily basis and try to spot some that don’t have the best effect on the situation.  The life changer for me was to stop saying “have to” and start using “get to” more frequently.  It put me in a position of feeling like I was in control of the situation and it was up to me to make the situation improve.

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