31 Jan

Target Your Team with Words That Work

Target Your Team with Words That Work

I recently had a conversation with a construction engineer about how knowledge of physics enables people to move massive, heavy objects while exerting very little effort. By using centrifugal force, gravity, and the science of simple fulcrums and natural leverage, for example, two people can move a block of granite that weighs hundreds of pounds. In fact you may have used these same techniques if you have ever tried to move a large appliance, a big box, or a piece of furniture by tilting it up on one corner, turning it 180 degrees, and then tipping it onto another leg or corner to “walk it” across the room.

But it is also possible to get the same kind of powerful results by utilizing special business communication fulcrums for leadership leverage. The words you choose are powerful tools for motivating your teams – and by following the tips listed below you can leverage effective communication skills to move mountains.

  • Avoid accidentally condescending words, because those can create resistance and distance just when you want teamwork and cooperation. Instead of referring to an employee as someone who “works for you” (an expression that emphasizes that you are served as their boss) use a phrase like “works with me” or “collaborates with me.” That small distinction can make an employee or direct report feel better about the working relationship, while it also subtly communicates that you value their contributions and don’t feel yourself to be superior to them.
  • Know what motivates each of your team members, not in general but on a very personal, individual basis. Some of us are motivated by recognition and status, for example, while others are primarily inspired by money and power. Knowing what makes a person tick enables you to reward them in the way that inspires their best work – and it informs you in a way that will help you avoid attempts to motivate them with methods that flop and fail.
  • Talk to people. Get to know their passions, their hobbies, and details about what is meaningful to them on the job as well as in their personal lives. Then you’ll be equipped to ask, for example, how their daughter is doing on the science project, how their son’s basketball team is faring this season, or if their parent who was sick is feeling better.
  • Above all, routinely ask – with all sincerity – for specific feedback regarding what you can do as their leader to help them be more productive. Top leaders get some of their best ideas and innovations from their teams, because they are open to candid input and leadership suggestions.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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Copyright © 2020, Sarah Hathorn, All rights reserved.
800-267-3245, [email protected]

This article may be reproduced only in its entirety, including the above bio.
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