Recently I was speaking with a friend and used the word “y’all.” For those of you that do not know, y’all is a contraction of you and all, and is used quite a bit by those in southern states, especially Texas.
I’m not from Texas, but I have lived here for almost 2 years and this exchange between my friend and I served as a reminder that people tend to pick up the language they are surrounded with.
In my example it is a word, but make no mistake, people do pick up on the language and even behaviors that they are routinely exposed to. With that said, what language are you using with and around your team?
In general discussions with your team, are you accentuating the positive or dwelling on the negative? For example, the country is practically at full employment and staffing has become challenging. When referring to the staffing challenge are you making comments about the impossibility of hiring good people? If you are doing this regularly, your team will pick up on it and soon they will be believing and repeating this comment. The inability to properly staff the business will become the reason for most, if not all issues. On the other hand, if you are communicating that you are using the current climate as a way to be very selective in your hiring and attract new members to the team based on your reputation as the employer of choice, your team will pick up on this also.
When something negative happens, do you offer words of encouragement, address it head on and discuss what lessons can be learned, or do you begin looking for the person that is responsible? Mistakes are made at one time or another and if you respond by seeking out the responsible person, your team will do the same or worse yet, they will stop notifying you when something goes awry for fear of being singled out.
Do you engage with your team on a regular basis? When you come in to contact with a member of your team do you give them the standard “How are you doing?” greeting or do you interact with them enough to ask a more leading question such as, “How was your daughter’s cross-country meet?” Whatever the typical response, your team will eventually pick up the language they are exposed to and repeat this with others.
Behaviors related to language will also have an impact on your team. For example, do you have an “open door” policy but generally have your door shut? If you do, chances are that others are closing their doors more often as well.
Writer Florence Shinn said, “The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.”
In more simple terms, what goes around, comes around.
Do you want a more positive workplace? If so, use more positive language. You don’t need to ignore bad or negative news, just don’t dwell on it. If you have a workplace accident, review it and learn from it, but you might also share how long it has been since the previous accident, if appropriate. If your sales are in a downward trend, address it but also share some of the positive things you or others are doing to reverse the trend.
Language is important y’all! Take steps today to ensure your language is sending the message you want your team repeating.
Jeff McLanahan is a seasoned executive with more than 20 years of proven success with some of the most well-known and highly respected franchise brands. Jeff has held executive roles in the food service industry as well as the home services industry.