Leadership

This Leadership Asset Is the Key to Building a Team of Peak Performers

Craft masterful language to catalyze the champion qualities within your team.
This Leadership Asset Is the Key to Building a Team of Peak Performers
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Leadership & Performance Consultant
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a leader, your mission is to develop and sustain a dynamite team that can achieve performance and deliver results yet unseen. Heavy pressure is upon you to bring brand new, unconventional ideas, which inspire your team to greatness. Gone are the days where you were only expected to impress those who hired you. Your team members are really the ones whose trust, respect and loyalty you need to earn and gain. You have to act fast.

Related: Why the Best Leaders Act Like Playful Puppies

To achieve quick wins, we often look to slice, dice, improve systems and radical ideas. However, there is a key under-used asset we have at our fingertips which can unite and accelerate performers to achieve dynamic results in a heartbeat -- our language.

We communicate thousands of words every day. In fact, research from the University of Maryland has reported women use three times as many of these than men. However, we fail to capitalize on the powerful influence our words can have when chosen wisely, delivered at the right time, in the right way. To unleash your team’s potential, here are four key ways you can craft masterful language to catalyze the champion qualities within it.

1. Apply the winning combination of positive psychology + growth mindset.

Errors and mistakes stick out like a sore thumb. When the finger is pointed in blame, people feel guilt, shame and embarrassment and will likely avoid trying again than risk experiencing repeat humiliation. Positive psychology approaches are proving not only to be more powerful, but more enjoyable as they actively recognize and capitalize on individuals’ strengths and potential. It is easier to point out where your team has gone wrong, but when you create conversations that also explore what your people enjoy, what energizes them and what they find effortless, the positive flow-on effect is exponential:

  • Idea generation and solution-finding is freer and more frequent.
  • Your people are self-inspired to do better and be better.
  • Your people get on with their roles more happily without you pushing them.
  • They develop accountability to increase their performance standards.

Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck found through her growth mindset research that children who were praised for being smart or attractive developed ways to maintain being praised in those ways. However, children who were rewarded for the efforts they made and ways they changed their behavior to achieve a desired result, learned to keep looking for ways to keep changing and adapting. When you proactively look to recognize your team’s efforts, contributions and capabilities -- even if their results weren’t good -- their ability to dust off and strive to improve the next time around will be faster, and their resilience and passion will be far stronger.  

2. Be collaborative and give empowering, evaluative feedback.

Identifying errors is easy, especially other people’s errors. Your feedback and direction on how to best improve may well be best practice, but if your feedback is harsh, blunt and judgmental, you can almost guarantee your team is not going to be in a hurry to rectify their shortcomings. Let’s also not forget -- micro-managing is every free-thinking adult’s pet-hate!

Related: Effective Communication Is Something You Learn, Not Something You're Born With

Research has consistently demonstrated that positive change occurs more so when a collaborative approach is applied in developing and executing goals. Ask your team their thoughts on what went wrong. Base your evaluation of what went wrong on observations and various feedback sources. Avoid making personal opinions and judgments as they are subjective and can ignite personal conflict. Invite your team to develop ways they can improve. Suggest resources they can consult, encourage them to seek outside advice alongside your input and allow them to become powerful change agents. Make your job easier. They will learn to lead and manage themselves.

3. Proactively coach the language of your team.

Our mindset is reflected in our reactive thinking patterns. Self-talk can be dangerously limiting. When we forget we had a meeting or miss the pass on the basketball court, we call ourselves an idiot. That self-demeaning language might be inaccurate but it sticks, even if said in jest. Over time, self-worth, esteem and confidence are derailed. Call team members out on their negative self-talk and communication with others, and teach them to reframe it to preserve their belief in their capabilities:

“I’m such an idiot” might morph to “I feel like an idiot” or “That was idiotic behavior.” An even better reframe you would offer could be, "You might feel like you’re an idiot but you’re really not. You simply made a mistake.”

Go even further to redefine what words mean in your team. Mistakes might be redefined as learning experiences. Errors might be redefined as wake-up calls, and disappointment might be described as growing pains. Teaching your team to reframe their language makes recovery faster and sustains positive energy and a mindset of improvement.

Related: Have You Made a Big Mistake? Here's Why That's Good News For Your Company

4. Increase frequency of tailored, positive feedback.

According to a Gallup report released in March 2018, 28 percent of employees reported having received feedback a few times a year, with 19 percent reporting receiving it once a year or less. Not only are our people not receiving enough feedback, they’re not hearing praise often enough. Proactively use encouraging words not only to shifts your team’s mindset from negative to positive, it harness opportunities to shift their minds from fourth gear to fifth gear.

Deliberate and tailored use of words will not only change the tone, mood and level of inspiration each individual will develop but also:

  • Demonstrate you’re there beside them in the trenches and increase loyalty.
  • Draw your team’s focus away from discouraging triggers.
  • Sustain their endurance.
  • Help your people maintain a growth mindset despite challenges.

People will rarely remember what you said to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. By crafting your language using these four strategies, you’ll only weave a legacy of success stories. When giving thank you speeches for the successes they’ve achieved, what will your team say about you?

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