The words we choose as leaders are powerful. Helping our teams find the right words to clarify their thinking, can be even more powerful. As with so much else in leadership and life, less can be more. Sometimes, reducing the thought down to one powerful word can create vision and focus.
I have two friends both looking to lose a little weight. One is following a strict regimen of counting every calorie eaten and burned, with special calculators and lots of optimistic conversation around how many calories we actually torched in each workout.
Another friend takes a simpler approach, just don’t eat anything “white.”
Turns out, they are eating very similarly– avoiding refined sugar, potatoes, bread. Both are losing weight. One is spending a lot more time thinking about it.
Reducing challenges down to one word can create for easy following.
One word can clarify priorities (customers, safety).
In team building, having each person pick one word metaphors to open the conversation creates imagery that culls out the issues quickly in a non-threatening way.
“Today this team is a _______.”
“I want it to be a __________.”
In coaching, asking the employee for one word to describe their concerns helps to crystallize thoughts and clarify the issues.
For informal recognition, a powerful well-timed word, can be more memorable than a long discussion.
When supporting decision making, asking for a one word reason can help, “in one word, what differentiates this candidate from the others?”
Of course using the wrong one word without explanation can be devastating “no” and a few un-bloggable others come to mind.
However, encouraging people to find the right word can.
- calm emotion and confusion
- clarify thinking
- reduce conversational clutter
- creating a starting point for more useful words to follow