"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.


Let Me Find The Words: How To Use Effective Language In The Workplace


Many of us have been advised that, “words can hurt” or that, your words, once spoken, cannot be unsaid. These life lessons are useful beyond childhood, especially for those of us who become top executives. As leaders, our words have power – which one can wield with positive or negative effects. It is up to us to ensure that our voices work proactively to help our staff and our organizations improve. Leadership is about decisive direction, but an executive achieves better results when he or she filters negative feedback, constructive criticism and even simple questions before they reach an employee.

Give It Some Thought: Before You Speak

A good way to start this filtering process is to slow down and consider our words before we speak them. Our words can have a significant impact – but this is easy to forget at times, when we feel overly comfortable, or conversely, stressed. No matter how distant or familiar the listener is to you, it is always a good idea to frame your word around the acronym T.H.I.N.K. Make sure what you say is Truthful, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. If it isn’t, find a different way to communicate.

This is an especially good policy to maintain when you are discussing difficult topics, such as mistakes or failures. Even if a leader has a genuinely good reason to be upset with a staff member, the dialogue should fall into at least one of the T.H.I.N.K. categories.

Consider The Consequences Of Your Words

In addition to considering what we say and how best to say it, a good leader should understand the affect their words can have on others. One of the cardinal rules of leadership is to not tear down a team member, which means avoiding language, terminology or expressions that insult, offend, injure or undermine another person. Members of your team need their CEO to be admirable, someone they can emulate and respect; this is not accomplished through overly harsh or rude dialogue.

To handle these delicate situations, an executive needs to take charge but remain aware. As a CEO, you’re responsible for – and able to steer – the direction and tone of a conversation. This does not mean skirting criticism or ignoring poor decisions; rather, it is about finding the appropriate time and manner to advise others without damaging their confidence or reputation. While it may take some practice before you can filter yourself effectively, your efforts will ultimately make you a better CEO.

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.