For the better part of my career I felt there was no greater reward than seeing someone take, and benefit from my advice. To ensure frequent rewards, I gave out my advice like candy.
I spent the majority of my waking moments offering my (solicited and unsolicited) advice to my team, employees, clients, friends, and family. Whether it was helping my team manage a frustrating client, or helping my daughter prepare for a phone interview, I had my advice ready to serve on a silver platter. It wasn't until recently that I realized one simple word rendered my well-intentioned advice ineffective.
That one word is "should."
When I see a member of my team struggling, my advice-giving instinct was to jump in with a hearty serving of "You know what you should do!" or "You should..."
Standing by itself, the word is harmless, but when used in this context, it has the power to crush creativity, and diminish your team's ability to problem-solve independently.
You might be thinking to yourself "I don't say that!" but this word is sneaky. It's a surefire way to disempower your team and decrease moral. When you start a sentence with "you should," you close the door to conversation, brainstorming, and collaboration. Next time you notice it slip out, take a beat to try one of these substitutions next time you're offering up some advice.
"I have an idea."
"What do you think?"
"Can I offer some advice?"
By subtly shifting your wording, you give your team members an opportunity to ask for, and therefore accept your advice. Additionally, you also give your team and employees the opportunity to come up with their own creative solutions by opening up a two-way conversation.
Alternatively, you might be on the receiving end of the "should" and it's your boss, or superior who is doling them out. First, know that us should-ers are only trying to help. Second, before jumping the gun by taking (or refusing) their advice, imagine them rephrasing their thought using one of the formats above. Then ask yourself, does this advice make sense for me in my current situation? What are some other solutions I could try? Then, once you've gathered your thoughts, schedule a meeting with your boss to share your ideas.
Eliminating "should" from your workplace vocabulary can work wonders for empowering your team to express their creativity, come up with new ideas and solutions, and ultimately want to do a good job.
Do you often find yourself using this word? If yes, try rewording your advice, and share your substitution ideas with me in the comments below.