On this episode of Communicate I/O, Erica shares one small tweak that will create more clarity for your team and help them feel more motivated and inspired. Using the law of little things, she explains how one word can inadvertently create guilt for your team, and offers ways to easily reframe.
This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart on the Communicate I/O podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!
goals, team, word, guilt, episode, feel, tone, objectives, language, conversations, recharge, celebrate, grounded, voice, achieve, purpose driven, year, leader, matter
Erica Mills Barnhart
Hello hello, I’m Erica Mills Barnhart, Founder and CEO of Claxon Communication and I’m coming to you while hopping on the “it’s halfway through the year, how are things going bandwagon” with this episode. It is a natural time to take inventory of how things have gone so far and ask how might we want to of course correct or what might we want to do differently in the second half of the year? Those are perfectly reasonable questions. And words matter because they are matter, right? Give episode 41 a listen for more on this if you’re like, what, what? So listen to that, but words matter because they are matter. So the words you use to frame up these how are things going discussion, the conversations matter a lot, especially right now. I’m hearing consistently from the purpose driven leaders I’m in contact with all day, every day is something along the lines of this: we still want to do so much this year, we have a big vision and this work important and we have to keep going, going going, and I’m tired, my team is tired. Everyone is kind of sort of lowkey burnt out, but we can’t take our foot off the gas because of the aforementioned big vision and goals and commitment to achieving those big vision and goals. So what’s a purpose driven leader and team to do? So This isn’t the focus of this particular episode, but there’s merit to the idea of slowing down to speed up. Just want to mention that it’s summer prime time to slow down so it can feel scary to take your foot off the gas. That’s totally a thing but you can’t take a road trip, you can’t go anywhere with no gas in the tank, either actual or proverbial. And I feel you on this, I have to remind myself all the time of this like slow down to speed up. It’s counterintuitive to purpose centered high achievers like us. So I get that I feel you and yet, it’s a thing, right? There’s a lot of research backing this up. So if you and your team need like quick recharge, check out the free ebook I wrote cleverly titled Recharge: Energize your employees one word at a time, link to download it is in the show notes. Okay, so that’s the recharge. Back to revisiting goals and looking at the balance of the year ahead. Let’s wave our magic wand and everyone on your team, or those participating in these conversations have enough in the tank that they can engage. Yes. When we talk about strategy and goals and objectives, we tend to default into standard language, we tend in general, by the way, to default to understand the language, but we’ll leave that for another day. So I’d like to suggest one small tweak to the standard language that will do two things. One, create more clarity for your team and clarity is kind, it also saves you money, time and energy making it a win, win win. And number two, it’s going to make your team feel more motivated and inspired. Okay, so it’s related to the sub point in number one arounf run energy, but this one small tweak could just makes such a huge difference in terms of how people want to engage in the conversation. So before we get to the word, I know you’re just like on the edge of your seat with that, let’s distinguish between goals and objectives. I did dig deep on this in episode three, oh my god in the way back time machine, episode 3, titled: Don’t Set Marketing Goals, Do This Instead. Relates to goals in general cliffnotes version of that if you’re not like up for listening to that full episode, goals are the end game, and objectives or the milestones along the way, they let you know that you’re making progress, sticking with our summer travel metaphor, because why not? Goals are your destination and objectives are the milestones along the way. The milestones let you know that you’re making progress headed in the right direction. The goal, however, is to arrive at whatever destination you have identified for your summer vacation. So like for my family, you know, I’m based in Seattle, Washington, and we go to a place called Lake Chelan, which is central Washington state. It’s about three hours away and we’ve gone almost every summer for forever. So for us, that’s the end game sitting there and relaxing on Lake Chelan. Along the way, we go over two mountain passes, so we’re gonna go over Snoqualmie Pass first then Blewett Pass, then we’re gonna get into Wenatchee and from there, we know it’s about 30 minutes to Chelan. So if I find myself on White Pass, I’m gonna be like, Nope, that’s the wrong milestone. We are not making progress in the direction that we need to be going. Ditto for an organizational context, right? So there’s a difference between these two things. I know that they’re kind of used interchangeably and maybe to you, it doesn’t matter. But, you know, the more clear, clarity is kind, so clarity of the language in these conversations can be very, very, very helpful. So once you’ve taken inventory and figured out where you stand visa vie your goals, and each of the objectives that are going to add up to achieving that goal, the standard question that follows and says something like, what should we do differently the second half of the year to make sure we achieve our goals by the end of the year? Seems innocuous, right? That question, however, is ot innocuous. There’s a sneaky word in there that I’d encourage you to eradicate generally from your life whenever possible, and especially when talking strategy and goals with your team and that word is should. Should is a judgy little word, judgy, judgy judgy little word. And there is an etymological reason for this. So within the history of the word, we find out why it’s so judgy. It comes from German or Gothic Skulan, that’s the first time I’ve seen that. So anyway, Gothic Skulan, meaning to owe or be under obligation. That alone isn’t fantastic, right? In the context we’re talking about, but it gets worse. Oh, no, there’s more related via past tense form to Old English, it meant guilt. And here we get to why should feels like it’s like waggling its finger at you. It’s grounded in guilt. You don’t want to should on your people. Like do you want your team to feel guilty about what hasn’t been accomplished? Or energized about what’s possible? Now, I understand there is a philosophy that believes guilt is to the path to results. I just personally I don’t buy into this in general. I’m sure I can think of exceptions to this rule. And sure any might give you a little kick in the pants, but who wants to be kicked in the pants, and guilt, especially when it is brought to us from somebody else or you know, it’s mainly an extrinsic motivation. So it means the performance of your team will be reliant on you guilting them via the word should inadvertently, not say that you’re like, oh, I know that it means guilt, so should, should should. But it’s an external force. Research tells us that intrinsic motivation is much more effective. So that’s the source people can always tap into. So instead of the guilt laden should, here’s the question I’d suggest you ask and listen for the word switch. What could we do differently to get the results we want? Of course the operative word here now is could, you from should to could. Could harkens from Old English, originally, and then to be able. So now we’re getting somewhere. Like if we’re to paraphrase that it will be what are we able to do to get the results we want? No blame no shame an invitation to wander, to get curious, to get creative, to brainstorm, while of course, stay grounded in reality. What are we able to do? Implies a little bit of realism. You’re not like greenlight brainstorming the whole thing, right? Grounded in what’s possible. The law of little things, which I talk about in episode 49 is at play here. This is a one word tweak, a little tiny thing that could be the difference between your team joyously slaying it this year, or crumping along so crumping or joyously slaying? You pick. A note, of course, tone of voice, which is part of paralanguage which also matters. The tone you use to ask these questions is key. So if you’re like, What can we do? What ideas do you have? Like, that’s still not gonna feel awesome, right? It’s probably gonna shut folks down, make them feel defensive again, about what has not happened. This sounds obvious, of course, I’m like exaggerating the paralanguage in my tone of voice, but what’s interesting is we’re actually surprisingly unaware of our tone of voice a great majority of the time. So when I coach leaders on their communication, one of the things that I’m listening for, so that I can sort of mirror back to them or reflected back to them, not mirror it, but reflected back to them is insights on their tone of voice that they may be unaware of. That are having unintended consequences. So it’s really worth like paying attention to your tone of voice. And so it’s important that you as a leader when you’re entering into these discussions about what have we done and what’s possible going forward in order to achieve our goals, that you show up from a place of openness, abundance, curiosity. I suggest listening to episode 51 The Secret Life of Self Talk to make sure you are in that place. I have some very concrete practical tips for getting there, because if you’re not there, and you’re fooling yourself about that, no, I’m in this place, really, I’m not. That’s what is going to sneak out. So, bottom line on this, we are halfway through the year, don’t should on yourself and your team, it’s not nice and it won’t get you those amazing big bold results you want. These conversations can be straight up tricky to navigate again, especially the context that lots of teams and organizations are finding themselves in. If that’s what’s going on for you, reach out to me, we can work through it together. We’ll figure it out. There’s a there’s a booking link, you can book time with me and that’s in the show notes too. With all that said, I’ll just close with whatever you have accomplished, it’s fantastic. Please celebrate what you have accomplished. Look at the abundance. It is so tempting. I do this all the time, I’m with you, to focus on what hasn’t been achieved. But what has been achieved? I know for you and your team, it’s a long list. Please start there. Please tap into that again and again and again. High five, virtually, whatever. It’s a fist bump. I don’t know what it’s going to look like for you. Take time to celebrate it does all sorts of beautiful wonderful things for our brains and for connection between people on your team and then to other teams and within the organization as a whole. I celebrate you. I know you’re amazing and awesome. And with that, do good, be well, I will catch you on the next episode.