Extraordinary Team Blog

Words Matter

Posted by Kristin Arnold on October 14, 2011

Words matter – at least that’s what my dear friend and colleague, Pamela Jett says.  (Full disclosure: It is also the name of her communication training and consulting company!).

It’s true.  The words you use to describe any change you want to see on your team, in your organization or with your clients makes all the difference. Especially the words leaders use to cultivate a cultural change in behavior.  Leaders may use a “hinge”: a word or words that capture the essence of the change.  Here are some examples I have run into lately with some of my clients:

Game Changing Innovation.  What does that really mean?  It meant one thing to the Leadership Team, and yet when you talked to the frontline, they had a hard time getting their arms around the concept.

Edgy.  What does that really look like?  Edgy has two sides of the same coin: a healthy, intense trend-setting vibe – but can also be seen as touchy, irritable, or intolerant.

Lean.  What’s the goal? Cut to the bone, anorexic lean or optimum body mass?  And what’s driving the diet?  You’ll take different strategies depending on the answer….

Unfortunately, you can’t assume that everyone has a common understanding of these words – especially in the context of the organization.  Each person brings their own experiences, biases and nuances to the word – and interprets the meaning differently.  As you use these hinge words, take the time to make these crucial words come alive.  Try to:

Expound.  Explain the meaning of the words in as much detail as you can.

Examples.  Provide examples to demonstrate the meaning of the words.

Analogy.  Tie it to a completely different concept with similar characteristics.

Demonstrate.  Show them concrete ways they can contribute.

Sometimes, you have to slow down in order to speed up to make the change happen.  It is well worth the investment of time to get everyone on your team and in your organization singing off the same sheet of music.

We have become masters of teasing out the common understanding of these critical hinge words in our high stakes meeting facilitation services and our presentations as a mainstage conversationalist.  Give us a call to find out how!