It's not a good number. In fact, it's not something anyone in a leadership position wants to admit. However, when a Harvard Business Review survey reveals that 58 percent of people trust strangers, while only 42 percent trust their boss, it's time to acknowledge there's a communication problem in corporate culture. The leader/subordinate relationship is obviously suffering and the detriment it creates comes with a high price -- disengagement, loss of productivity and turnover.
Of course, the statistics surrounding the supposed dismal state of the corporate world could ramble on and on. A survey by business communication software company Bolste suggests that only 25 percent of employees feel extremely happy in their job. And just last month, CBS News ran a story titled "Why So Many Americans Hate Their Jobs," which cited the now infamous Gallup poll detailing the American workplace that seems to remind us all each year just how bad things are at work.
While traveling, speaking and interviewing, I often get asked by leaders in various industries what they can do to change this seemingly increasing problem. They ask questions like, "What do I need to change about my company?"
There is something you can change as a leader. And it requires no budget, no frills--like ping pong tables and yogurt bars--and very little time to implement. It's a simple thing to place on your leadership To-Do list: Change my language.
As a leader, words are often our most powerful tool. Instead of focusing on all the bad things happening in the working world, here are four words I've heard leaders say that achieve better relationships, higher morale at the office, and ultimately higher results from their people.
Hardly an inspiring question, the word "why" creates an inquisitive discussion between a manager and employee. Why did you want to work here? Why are we doing it this way? Why don't you try to find a better way? All these questions dig at the reasons we all go to work every day -- to fulfill a purpose, serve a customer, use our unique skills or somehow create a positive difference. As leaders, we need to stop pretending that we know all the answers and start having more why-based discussions with our teams. "Directions are instructions given to explain how," said Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling book Start With Why. "Direction is a vision offered to explain why."
This word may seem confrontational at first glance. And, to a certain extent, it is. However, the word also communicates a strong belief in a person's ability to tackle a problem or project that is, in fact, challenging. Dr. Jeff Spencer, creator of The Champion's Blueprint, and team doctor to eight winning cycling teams in the Tour de France told me once, "Champions aren't just one-time winners. They're people who understand that the challenge they face changes every time they win. And they enjoy the fact any new bench mark is higher than the last." Spencer's not alone in his thinking. All the great leaders I've met have used the word challenge to both focus their people's efforts on achieving a goal, but also to say, "I believe you can do it."
It's simple, straightforward, and can be heard cheered throughout sporting arenas around the globe. But the word "go" is not just used for encouraging effort. Research has also shown that employees who are told to "Go" (get away from their desk to see their work being received by the people their work impacts) become 17 times more passionate about their work. As leaders, that's a powerful little word we all need to use more often.
This is the big one. And, sadly, it's not said enough even though research proves that recognition is, by far, the number one thing employees say their boss could do to inspire them to create great results. Consider moments in your career when you were recognized. Most likely you recall the words spoken, who said them, and how they made you feel -- like you could accomplish anything. Recognizing and thanking people for their efforts, their results and their commitment in their careers is a powerful leadership tool.
As much as it is true that we face some problems in the working world, the opposite is also true. Every day I hear stories from people in every walk of life who tell me that they love their job, their company or their leader. The reason they love going to work every day is because it's an opportunity to become their best. Think about that the next time you see a team member disengage. Then change your language to inspire them to greatness.