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The Power of the Right Words in Communication

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People who learn that AccelaWork offers productivity and workflow consulting often think we make people better at their jobs. That’s not only incorrect, it’s a dangerous way to think.

Here’s a typical interaction between someone on our team and a potential client:

Manager: So you’re in the productivity business? That’s good, I really want to make my employees more productive. How can you make them get more done?

SD: Actually, we can’t make them do anything. It might sound like splitting hairs, but there’s a world of difference between wanting your employees to be more productive and wanting to make your employees more productive.

Manager: Huh? What’s the difference?

SD: Productivity comes from improvements to workflow and tools, but also from individual empowerment. Trying to force someone to change only degrades their morale.

Manager: This is more complicated than I thought.

The words we use are crucial. If you tell a co-worker that “you’re doing it wrong” then you are also doing it wrong! Openly criticizing the way someone works doesn’t lead to any kind of meaningful or sustainable change. It only creates frustration and dissatisfaction.

There are few better to talk about the power of words than Mohammed Qahtani, a speaker at the Toastmasters 2015 World Championship of Public Speaking.

Do you know that the amount of people dying from diabetes are three times as many people dying from smoking. Yet, if I put a snicker bar, nobody would say anything.

Do you know that the leading cause of lung cancer? Is not actually a cigarette, it’s your DNA. You could smoke for years and nothing will ever happen to you. This whole war against smoking is just to restrict the farming of tobacco.

Mr. Contest Chair, fellow Toastmasters and guest, I use these arguments even though I just made them up…

A simple choice of ‘word’ can make a difference between someone accepting or denying your message. You can have a very beautiful thing to say, but say it the wrong words and it’s gone.

I have a son who is four, and he had this bad habit of writing on the walls with crayons. And one evening I walked into his room and he’s going at it, just writing and drawing and so on. And I said, hey, hey, hey!

Are you stupid? Don’t you ever do that again? And guess what happened. He did it again.

Nobody likes to be threatened. Nobody likes to be intimidated. His pride will not allow it. He did it again just to spite me. A week later, I walked into his room and again, he’s going at it and this time, he was even looking at me.

Consultants can’t be brought in to threaten your employees, nor should they. They aren’t going to make your workers work harder. Rather, they should be giving employees the tools for them to become successful. But when phrased in a different way, the entire situation can be a confusing one. Using the right words not only makes sure that your audience clearly knows what you mean to say, but it also means that your point will be received as a meaningful and important one, assuming that it is indeed something meaningful.

consulting on productivity

© Flickr user Sam Catanzaro

It’s good to want employees to be more productive. Yet it’s also essential to acknowledge that we cannot achieve increased performance through mandate. Instead, we should give employees more authority and responsibility and empower them through additional education. That’s the only consistent way to help companies become more productive.

Are you forcing or empowering? business process improvement consultants to learn more.

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