Words that Break Flow
Shifting from waterfall into a flow based delivery mechanism is an exercise in change management and change management is as much about the people as it is about the new process or tool. In fact, it could be argued that until the people align their beliefs and thinking to the new processes, the impact of the change will be minimal. Which brings me to the issue of language and words.
Words are how we communicate what we are thinking, what we need and want and what needs to get done. Language also creates ‘position’ in a team.
“You will do this by tomorrow”, implies someone in authority (with the power to make life very difficult for you) declaring how something will happen to someone in a lower position. The implication is that the person receiving the order is ‘lesser’ and will do whatever he or she is told, without thought.
Very grand and rewarding for the person in the position of authority (isn’t this what we all aspire to) and incredibly demotivating for the person at the receiving end. Oh, and there is a good chance that no matter how forceful the delivery of this order, it won’t be ready tomorrow and even worse, the manager will be taken by surprise as no-one felt safe enough to inform him of why it might not be possible.
Now take this sentence “How could we deliver this by tomorrow ?” Doesn’t it feel more open, more inclusive ? If I were at the receiving end of this I would feel that my expertise was valued and required. I would feel inspired to find ways to make it happen, to bring out the things that could stop us and also to bring out the impact that doing this might have.
Language matters! How you phrase something matters and these are phrases that are perhaps used very sparingly”
- “Have to”
- “Supposed to”
Phrases that support self-managing, self-organising teams are phrases that create the space for other possibilities. These are spaces that involve the team and use their hard won expertise and knowledge. Phrases like:
- “How could we ?”
- “What if ?”
- “ I wonder what it would look like, what would happen”
- “What got in the way ?”
How could the words you are using be subverting your coaching and change efforts ? How much space are you creating for the team to be active participants in the change ? How aware are you of the impact you are actually having ?