Six Ways To Make Your Words More Meaningful

JoAnn Auger, MSBCoach Executive Coach & Trainer

This weekend I watched the movie, “Anonymous," a primarily fictionalized theory about the authenticity of William Shakespeare’s work.  I’m not writing a review nor a recommendation for the movie. I’m writing because of a couple of lines that caught my attention. These lines were: “….words will prevail” and ”it is words that will live on and tell the story…"   Maybe the reason these lines struck me was because of a book that I had recently read (Words That Work by Frank Luntz). Perhaps it is because I spend a great deal of time of listening to people as an Executive Coach and I must pay close attention to words.

For whatever the reason, I have been thinking about how we use words. How much time do we spend thinking about the words that we speak or write? I’m not referring to being “politically correct” or just being careful with our words. No, what I wonder about is what do our words and the words of others to reveal about us?

Right now we are in a presidential election year. Every word spoken by those in this presidential campaign is analyzed and scrutinized. What do their words reveal? Are the words that we hear or read the actual words of the candidate?  Often we hear about candidates who have had to retract or explain statements because they were speaking “off the cuff."  What does that mean?   What does that tell you about that person? Ok, I am not trying to make any political statements either.  What I want you to consider is the thought that if “words will live on and will tell our story," what will those words reveal about you?  What story will they tell?  Will those words tell a story of success? A story of an authentic leader?  An accurate account of your legacy?  Hopefully you are asking yourself this question, ”How can I ensure that the words that live on after me tell the story of a great leader?”

Below are six ways to make your words more meaningful:

  1. Make sure that your words are supported by your actions. Often leaders “talk a good game” but the lack of supporting action makes your words powerless. Speak words that build-up not tear-down.
  2. Be transparent. People already know that you are not perfect and that you do not have all the answers (that should allow you to breathe easier and relax a bit). Do your words reflect the authentic you? Transparency shows your humanity. It builds trust.
  3. Ask more often than you tell. Be curious about what people are thinking and what they know. They will often surprise you with some really great ideas and insight. You will learn a lot. Make sure you credit those that have taught you something. They will continue to share and encourage others to share.
  4. Hold people accountable for their role and be accountable for yours. Make sure expectations are clearly communicated and measured. For the most part, people will live up to whatever expectations you set as long they can see you are living up to yours.
  5. Communicate your Vision.  As the leader you are the custodian of the vision. Communicate it often and weave it into every initiative, project and event.  No vision – No focus. No focus – no drive. People want to be involved with something larger than themselves.
  6. Be visible. People will see you as more accessible and willing to listen. Being visible is not about “looking over everyone’s shoulder." Being seen can be done through the use of all aspects of media, written communications, interviews, showing up for team meetings/celebrations, etc. Visible leaders create engagement. Visible leaders inspire confidence.

Finally, remember that each day you are adding to your story. You may not always be afforded the opportunity to edit it. So take advantage of this rare opportunity…edit where necessary. Someday the next generation of leaders will assume your role. What will be said of you? What words will prevail?

If you have additional ways you have used to make your words more meaningful, we would like to hear about them.