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Language vital in leadership

As the old adage goes; language is a key to success! In the world of cutting edge business practice today, language has become a means to a successful business operation.

Robert Mandeya

For most in leadership, managerial or supervisory positions where they are required to communicate daily in writing or orally, the importance of precise language usage cannot be over emphasised.

In such positions of influence, a person’s vocabulary, choice of words, pronunciation and spelling help to establish personal credibility, as well as the credibility of the company he or she represents.

Effective handling of language contributes to one’s social and business success, as well as leading to a general acceptance by those he or she interacts with. Healthy human relations are dependent upon successful language use in communication.

However, owing to our not so “privileged” educational and social backgrounds, we sometimes find ourselves at a linguistic disadvantage.

Because of certain factors, we find ourselves limited in vocabulary, diction and handicapped in spelling when writing.

Language is a facility which allows us to convey our intentions, needs, feelings, thoughts and ideas. It is an instructional tool which we use to get certain things done in the business world. In using language, we are using a set of tools and labels which allow us to drive the point home.

The process of clarifying mission, goal-setting, job description and job coaching requires precision in the use of terms and expressions throughout the organisation at all levels of human endeavour.

Take for instance the process of administering the performance management tool — it requires that managers talk to each other. It also prompts managers to help their subordinates in anyway possible.

Because the success of subordinates in the execution of their tasks is closely tied to their boss’s ability to instruct, direct and manage situations, the need to master critical language and communication skills can not be ignored.

Managers and supervisors have a tendency to talk about behaviour in general and vague terms. While these terms provide easy shorthand for a conversation — do they accurately and precisely communicate our thoughts and ideas?

Unfortunately, what is easy for us to say is not necessarily easy for others to interpret and understand.

If managers speak in terms of vague and general traits, employees will be confused. They do not get a clear picture of exactly what is expected of them. Hence their performance does not improve.

Often managers use general terms like “effective” or “hard working” to describe many different behaviours which only adds to the confusion.

Supervisors who wish to communicate clearly with employees about what they are expected to do and how they are expected to do and how well they are doing, must speak in specific terms.

In other words, they have to pin-point the specific desired behaviour and talk or write about that behaviour in specific terms.

Pin-pointed behaviour refers to a specific, observable action that can be measured or described in practical terms.

It is something that an employee says or does and for which some one who is watching could say, “He or she did this” and “He or she did it so many times today.”

Conversely, pin-pointed outcome is a specific, observable result of what an employee says or does. It is something that can be measured or quantified for which some one watching could say, “He or she produced so many today.”
However, sometimes it is easier to count results or outcomes than it is to count behaviours.

Non-pin-pointed behaviour refers to all other ways of talking about behaviour. It includes referring to general and non-specific actions.

For instance, “He or she did a “good job”, Non-pin-pointed behaviour also includes general character traits, such as: “hard working”, “lazy” and so on.

In the fore given examples, one is tempted to ponder as to what a “good job” constitute or what constitute “hard working” or “lazy” behaviour?

In that case, then we are compelled to think of better ways of expressing the behaviour depicted in the given expressions. Maybe it would be appropriate to say, “He is so expeditious and timeous in carrying out his tasks” rather than say, “He is hard working.” At least there is an element of “expedience” and “timeliness” in the description of this behaviour.

In practical terms, “lazy” can be expressed as being “physically weak and disinterested” in performing a task. What is normally referred to as a “good job” is a “perfectly accomplished”, “beautifully done,” “exquisitely done”, “competently done” task. I can go on giving examples of appropriate language usage and the merits contained there in.

Above all, it is important to note that language can be consciously varied to distort reality, misrepresent the truth or change people’s attitudes and perceptions.

The words we use, how we use them, and how we pronounce them often have a telling effect on our intellect and personality.

For any one in a position of influence it is disastrous to take language for granted as this might negatively impact on our managerial skills. Language is a utility through which our image and effectiveness is built.
As a person in management, language may well be your most useful tool and can be your greatest asset. In this instance, you will be required to communicate daily, with many different people.

These communications will be both written and spoken. Therefore, your success in the business world will depend on your ability to use language precisely and communicate effectively.

Robert Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

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