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The Influence of Your Words

The words may be true, but what about the attitude?

People don’t process spoken words like they do when they read words.  The influence of the tone and inflection is the audible version of bold or italicized words.  What people hear causes them to interpret those words in ways we may not have intended.  A good manager knows how to filter their words through the screen of common sense and good judgement.

Here are two strategic ways to use the influence of your words.

1. Timing -  

Have you ever noticed how influential music is to the setting of a scene in a movie?   You can tell when something explosive is about to happen.  The music begins quietly and then gently builds in volume until the climatic moment.  Sometimes after a powerful dramatic encounter the music playfully offers a little relief.  And sometimes there is no music at all, but a pause of silence so that the viewer has a chance to think or breathe.


Your words are like music to your employees and team.  The timing of your words is just as important as what you say.  Great leaders know that in times of crisis or stress they should be speaking as soon as possible, providing a sense of direction or assurance.  They also know that when someone accomplishes a goal the words of praise need to be offered quickly.  And the power of the pause gives a leader the advantage of building the anticipation and attention of those that need to hear what is said.  

Another important timing tip - when you notice that the employee is focused on accomplishing a task or is in the middle of a conflict, consider offering them the courtesy of some time to personally complete their own thoughts and reflection before introducing yours.

2.  Questions

The questions you ask reveal what is important to you and sets the expectations.  

The manager of a retail store is constantly asking if the trash was taken out, the floors swept and the displays updated.  If those are the first questions the manager asks of the employees when they come to work, that is what they are going to focus upon.  What do you think those employees are going to do when a customer walks into the store - stop cleaning or start serving?  The manager that is always asking customer-related questions first is training the employees to put a high priority on service. 

Your questions establish the priorities of your employees.  What questions are you asking your team members today?

- Steven Iwersen


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