Damn, that headline is catchy as hell. It certainly promises a lot. Internet journalism says I should bury the hook further down in the article. You know so you’ll keep reading, spending more time on the page, and inflate site/user activity metrics. Except, all that does is waste your time. Kind of like this explanation itself. So screw that, let’s get right to it.
What’s the one thing you can instantly change to become a better manager?
Your pronouns. Yep, that’s right, those ubiquitous little parts of speech hold more power than you think. And a single change can enable tangible and lasting effects in your management career. So what exactly do I change, you ask? Simple. Stop using singular pronouns (“I, He, She”) and replace them with plural pronouns (We, Us, They, Ours) at every opportunity. EVERY OPPORTUNITY. It may sound weird out loud at first but this habit will completely transform how you think about your team and how your team responds to you.
Ultimately this change instills a naturally collaborative atmosphere. And does so almost subliminally. By surrendering such conversational ownership, others are encouraged to be a part of the context and participate. Replacing “I” with “We” will invite the buy-in of your listener. And sharing that responsibility sets the tone for a true team environment.
This works for when motivating towards a goal as well as acknowledging accountability for improvement.
“Let’s (let us) crush our Q1 goal!”
“How can we do better next time?”
As you can see, this commentary sounds much better than the commanding, “You crush your Q1 goal.” Or, “How can you/he/she do better next time.” Singular and possessive pronouns can imply an accusatory and even threatening air. Get in the habit of removing them as often as possible when speaking with your team. Once you begin to change your speech patterns you will begin to notice a much more receptive attitude amongst your team.
The Senator Study
The underlying principle of this concept boils down to power. The acquisition of power and status in both social and work environments are always prevalent. Some individuals are looking to gain power while others will give power.
Over a 6-10 year period a study was conducted by Berkeley Psychologist, Dacher Keltner, wherein the speeches of over 100 senators were coded to identify the non-verbal markers of empathetic and machiavellian tendencies. Examples of such markers included tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, and choice of pronouns!
At the conclusion of the study, what Dacher found was that senators displaying empathetic tendencies where MORE likely to have their bills passed. Being an empathetic manager goes a long way in building a successful team. And you can improve how that empathy is delivered by changing the way you talk.
The only caveat here is knowing when you SHOULD say “I, My, Mine, Me.” And that’s when holding yourself accountable for mistakes or failures. Your team will respect you for it.
And if you’re still reading, thanks for keeping those “site/user activity metrics” high. We did a great job. 😉