3 Lessons On Language And Leadership
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 17, 2013
There are many facets to being a good leader. One of those facets is language, it’s use and what good leaders say. You’d think those two things would mean the same but they don’t.
I’ll take the second point on first. In a video conference I did with some other people I led a discussion on the topic of language on blogs and websites. There are sites that will evaluate your blog, blog post or website and tell you which grade level it seems to be geared towards.
This blog is considered to be geared towards seniors in high school. That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Well, it is and it isn’t. Contrary to popular belief, just because most people graduated high school doesn’t mean that everything they’ve done since then had kept them at that level of education, even if they went to college. I might bring up concepts here that seem easy to understand to me that might be complicated to someone who doesn’t have the experience or background to fully get it.
So the dilemma becomes do I continue writing at this level because I need to show my expertise or do I bring the level down some so that more people understand? It’s not easy because people who might hire me are more apt to understand the higher level than people at lower levels; that’s been the history so far. Thus, I’ll continue writing at my normal level and hope that if some people don’t understand that they’ll ask me about it; after all, part of writing a blog is establishing conversations.
If you’re a leader in an office full of high school graduates who only wanted to work and nothing else, I can tell you that if you’re always talking to them as if you’re preparing them for year end exams that you’re not going to get much done. Often your language has to drastically change when you’re in educating mode because if people don’t understand you, they’re not going to get things done right and whose fault would that be?
That’s the second part. The first is in choosing what type of language you’re going to use when you’re interacting, aka just talking to people, whether you’re having conversations, doling out reprimands, etc. This is a totally different language, sometimes more crucial than the specific words you use, because what you say could affect the mood of the person you’re talking to, upsetting them by either making them mad or depressed, and whether they understand everything or not you’re not going to get the best out of them. Sometimes you have to upset them but depending on what words you use, the negative effects could be minimized.
I’ve now established that and hope I communicated it well enough. Now comes the easy part; how to do all of this for maximum effect. Here are 3 lessons for you that I hope come out as easy as I expect they should be.
1. Listening is crucial to communicating. If you listen to others you’ll get an idea of how they talk and what they might understand. If you’re smart and talented enough to have been promoted, you’re smart enough to know how to mimic the words and style of the people who you have to communicate with.
2. If you’re teaching, visuals always work great. Sometimes you don’t have a choice in some of the language you use if it’s integral to the work process. Visuals can be as simple as screen prints of a step-by-step process or images of things people have to do that go along with what you have to teach. If you have to tell someone what a coaxial screw is (I don’t know what this is by the way), you can scan a picture of it and write something next to it identifying it.
3. If you have to deliver bad news, no matter what it is, try to rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand. Truthfully, most people aren’t up to the job of talking off the cuff when the situation is going to be stressful. How many politicians stick their feet in their mouths when pressed for comments by the media? Rehearsing up front not only helps you figure out what words to deliver, but gives you the opportunity to be as dispassionate in delivering bad news as possible. You don’t want to seem like you don’t care, but you also don’t want to make anything you say come across as personal animosity towards that person.
I hope those were easy; if not, let me know.