What to Say - And Not Say When Speaking to Staff

There’s no question that one of your primary jobs as a business owner is to communicate effectively with your staff. But how often do you stop to think about the impact of the words you’re choosing or any habitual ways in which you might be conversing with your hires?
    Whether you’re communicating with long-time employees or perhaps your seasonal crew hired specifically to help sell prom, it’s important to pay attention to the words you use and the power they have over others.
    “Sometimes we unknowingly use a language style or certain phrases that actually hurt instead of help,” says John Manning, author of “The Disciplined Leader” and CEO of the executive-leadership coaching firm MAP Consulting (https://www.mapconsulting.com). “For example, simply using a lot of negative-sounding words can, over time, cast you in negative light and make you less effective as a leader in your store and in your industry.”
    Not only that but these same kind of words and phrases “can also wear away at and rub off on those around you, impacting morale, hindering productivity, and decreasing their desire to perform and deliver results,” Manning adds.
    To get a better grasp of how your words may be impacting your staff for better or worse, Manning recommends that you:

Monitor your language. Without judging yourself, make a point to start noticing some common ways you speak to your staff. Track and write down words you frequently use as well as any canned responses you have to certain situations that often pop up. If you’re struggling with noticing patterns in your language, consider asking another staff member to do it for you or get some anonymous employee feedback about this aspect of your communication. You might also want to consider recording yourself speaking, such as at your next employee meeting.

Determine what needs to change. After you’ve tracked your words and other common phrases you may use, think about how they support or detract from your business goals and, in particular, your responsibility to be an excellent, inspiring communicator with your staff. Does your choice of words make you come across as a “Negative Nelly”? When responding to employees’ questions, do the phrases you choose create connections or prevent and/or destroy them? Do you talk in a way that directly or indirectly tells employees their ideas are valued–or not? Do you use certain words or terms that might be offensive or off-putting to certain staff members, such as a newly hired prom salesperson who might not know you that well? Answer these kinds of questions to figure out what needs to be addressed and changed for the better.

Take action. As a storeowner, you are probably making all kinds of great efforts toward enhancing your presence and potential as a leader. But it’s possible to undermine this vital responsibility with casual, yet caustic communication mistakes. So after you’ve determined what needs to change and why, be strategic about how you’ll improve this aspect of your communication behavior. For instance, here are some great examples of what to say and what not to say to your people.

Don’t say: I don’t have a clue.
Say this: I’m unfamiliar with this. How do you think I should get up to speed?

Don’t say: Not my job. Let somebody else figure it out.
Say this: Let’s figure out who should handle this.

Don’t say: I can’t get that done in time.
Say this: That deadline may be hard to meet. Here’s what’s on my plate…

Don’t say: How many times must I repeat myself?
Say this: What’s your interpretation of the instructions?

Don’t say: I don’t think so.
Say this: Here’s what I think…

    Learning to communicate effectively can be one of the most powerful things you can do to build your relationships with your staff, demonstrate that you value them, and get them to buy in to your store’s goals, be they big or small. So put a new, productive twist to the words you use, being purposeful about what you choose to say – and not say – to your valuable staff.
    It’s not always easy to be so mindful and deliberate about your language, but it’s a great habit that, with practice, can eventually become second nature. Let it become your leadership language and a communication behavior you’d like your staff to practice with others, too!

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