Inspirational leadership is about the positive things you recognize in your employees and the way you make them feel. I talk with many leaders who seem to think that speaking nicely isn't part of what makes a workplace function well. They believe discipline, directness, strength, order and firmness are the most effective ways to communicate rather than being kind or compassionate.
Saying nice things requires consciously deciding to behave kindly and positively. Leaders who are aware of their own behavior and how it impacts others are able to practice kind communication. Many workplaces toil under a different approach where you'll hear statements like:
- Great idea, but here's how we're going to do it.
- It's my way or the highway.
- If you don't like it, leave.
- This isn't a workplace for babies.
- Did I stutter?
- What part of _____ don't you understand?
People don't feel valued and energized when they hear things like these but leaders say them all the time and they're a big part of why so many leaders and employees are miserable. Walk into any unhappy workplace and you'll hear statements like these or worse. As a leader, you get to create any workplace environment you choose and you set the example. What if you said things like:
- Great idea, let's use it.
- Your way and my way are both valid.
- If you don't like it, let's find what makes sense to you.
- It's OK to show emotions in this workplace.
- Did I explain myself well enough?
- Let's work together to make sure we both understand this the same way.
It's right about now that many leaders I talk with begin getting uncomfortable because they perceive this kind of language as too friendly or they've never talked this way. That's a normal reaction, much of our business language is focused on controlling, directing or reprimanding people rather than helping them grow and succeed. The next thing that comes up is usually something about how being nice makes people soft. That only happens if you praise things they do poorly or say nice things that aren't authentic.
If you're committed to creating a positive work environment, try the following exercise for the next month. Every time you feel like saying something negative, try phrasing it in a positive way. Do this for a month and see what it does for your employees' morale, motivation and productivity. Communicating nicely creates happier workplaces where people are treated kindly and feel valued. What will you do to say nice things in your workplace?