Photo: Tim Gouw
It’s been said that an animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. While body language can certainly say a lot without speaking a word, luckily for humans, we also have a written and verbal language in which we communicate. The challenge when it comes to the workplace, however, is that using that voice in just the right way and at the right time isn’t always so easy or obvious.
Great leaders pay special attention to their voice. They’ve mastered this skill because they know the words they use can literally make or break their team, motivate and inspire someone or leave a subordinate feeling like a complete failure. Industry knowledge and the mastery of a skillset is certainly important to becoming a great leader, but until you truly understand the power of your voice and how to use it, you’re not ready to run the show. Here are six ways the best leaders find their voice and use it to inspire greatness in others.
They know when to be gentle and compassionate
Sometimes, all a person needs is for someone to show she cares. Maybe one of your top employees is struggling lately. Often times it has nothing to do with the job itself. Maybe it’s a health issue. Maybe her child is acting out at home. Maybe he’s just going through a rough patch. Just being a human being and showing people that you care for their well-being is the best characteristic of a great leader. Sometimes saying nothing at all, but just being there for another person is the best thing you can do.
They know when and how to push someone
Great leaders know how to use their voice to push people to do bigger and better things. Maybe someone on your team has plateaued or is just simply stuck. Maybe your team is closing in on last year’s sales record and needs that little push to get over the hump. A great leader knows how to step in and inspire someone to get the job done. He knows the words to use, the tone and when to say it. Many times, it’s just hearing the right words that can turn things around altogether.
They resolve conflict without getting in the middle
Great leaders must act as the middleman sometimes, making tough decisions or resolving team conflicts. The best leaders are able to look at the facts objectively, doing what’s best for the team even if that means ignoring their personal feelings. When making their decision, these leaders are careful with the words they choose, stating the facts and listing the reasons why they chose what they did without showing prejudice to any one individual or group of people. They know they have to be very careful with the language they use to avoid it coming off as a personal attack but rather a work or company-based decision.
They pad their words
Word padding is all about being firm and getting the point across with the language you use, but at the same time not coming off as the company jerk that nobody wants to be around. You’ve probably known a leader or two who had the reputation of company bully; maybe it was even you. That’s because there
is no word padding taking place. An example with no word padding: Brian, I’m really disappointed in you. It was a stupid decision and this is going to cost us a lot of money. I sure hope you weren’t thinking about that raise.
An example with word padding: Brain, that really wasn’t the best decision you made back there. Next time if you’re unsure, come talk to me and we can decide together. You have a lot of potential, and I think you can be even better if you just step back and think a little more instead of making rash decisions.
They put the focus on you
The best leaders effectively use their language by including you in the conversation. They don’t just walk by and say hello. They stop and say, “Hello Meghan.” They reference people by name as much as possible. They remember the details when they can. It makes you feel important when the owner of the company remembers that your mother was recently ill and asks how she’s doing, or that your child just graduated college and mentions that when he sees you. Remembering someone’s name or one or two simple facts about them is something that will help you stand out as a leader.
They are enthusiastic with their vocal tones
If I say, “How are you?” in a very monotone voice or if I say it with some excitement behind it, there’s a big difference. One way sends the message that I’m just saying it to say it, and the other ways make it sound more genuine like I care. It’s not always the words that matter, but how you use your words that makes all the difference. Not only is the person you are conversing with going to be more receptive when you ask the question with enthusiasm, it’s going to rub off on you as well.
In fact, if you’re feeling down or having a rough day, faking the enthusiasm is often what will turn things around for you. Your voice and your words have power. Being good at what you do is important for career advancement, but being a good communicator is just as important. Whether you’re looking for a career advancement or have already climbed the ladder to the top, understanding the power you hold within can be the difference in everything. Before you go to say something next time, think twice about what you’re about to say and how you’re going to say it.
Melinda Garvey is the founder of OnTheDot Woman, a movement dedicated to giving women around the globe access to relatable role models with a daily 4-minute podcast.