Brett McCarty

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Brett McCarty

Words and the weight they carry

The words you use carry weight. The further up in an organization you climb or the more influence you acquire, the greater the weight of your words.

I need this reminder regularly and I have only just begun my management journey. This is not to say that I analyze and carefully craft every word I use, likely the opposite if you ask those on my team. What I prefer to do is keep this thought in mind as I do what so much of management is, communication. This is especially helpful in centering me on being conscious of what I am saying and quick to correct anything that might possibly construe something unintended.

In a recent coaching session I received some feedback that sent me into a nosedive. This particular piece of feedback was intended to express the importance of something that was perceived to be lacking. The way this was communicated led me down some strange paths and stranger questions. Am I on track to being managed out? Are some of the things I am doing with my team doing more damage than good? Is that damage being done to me or to my team as a whole? Should I disengage and fly below the radar for a while?

The good news is that none of this was true and while I did disengage for a brief moment, I was able to recover quickly. As I have a tendency to do I quickly turned what I learned around and started looking at my own choice of words. I started asking myself some questions.

  1. How is what I just said being received?
  2. What thoughts might I stir up for the receiver(s) of my message?
  3. What actions are these words dictating?
  4. What actions are being avoided by what I just said?

So what is one to do?

There are a few things that I have started to do or am doing more intentionally with this new heightened sense of awareness. These are easy for me to incorporate into my day to day work and I believe they help me practice my craft.

  1. The Mantra - The words I use carry weight. The words I use carry weight. So on and so forth. While I don't practice this daily and have not embraced this in any meditation practices. It is an easy reminder when I think I need it. The words I use carry weight.
  2. Re-read Rule - As technology increases communication happens less and less in person. I have a personal rule that I re-read, at least once, everything I am communicating out. This is in emails, slack, skype, or any other medium that I use to express thoughts through my fingers.
  3. Non-verbals - For the communication that does take place face to face or webcam to webcam, I do everything I can to be present and reading any non-verbal communication I can. There are so many subtleties that people use and it is ingrained into us as humans to pickup on these. By staying open to this and trusting my instincts with this I can often diffuse or re-word anything that might be miscommunicated.

What this is exercising is my own self-awareness around how I communicate. My own ability to refine this skill and become better at it could potentially help me move from a merely good leader to a great leader. Or one could hope.

Are there things you are doing to communicate effectively?

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