How many of you remember your mother telling you, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you"? I remember making this statement to my two daughters, for which I have since apologized. However well-intentioned this statement may have been, it is utterly false.
Words do matter, and they can hurt. Words can be hurled out in haste either in speaking or in writing that quick email, message or tweet. Our minds work extraordinarily fast, our defense mechanisms kick in, and we are in response mode.
In fact, if we think about all the muscles we have in our bodies and how we are to properly exercise them, there is none more powerful than the tongue, yet we do not often think about how to control that single muscle which can cause so much damage in such a short amount of time.
Setting the tone
As leaders of your organization, you have the responsibility of setting the tone within the organization. The words spoken and how they are spoken create an atmosphere that can be either helpful or toxic.
Who can forget the speech given by Gen. George Patton at the beginning of the film, “Patton” or how we reacted to hearing a coach’s pep talk right before the big game?
All of us can remember hearing words of encouragement and congratulations, and I would imagine, you can relate to the cringe I feel when I think back to the “sting” I have inflicted when my words were poorly chosen. Words do matter.
It’s all in how you THINK
I once heard a presentation about the power of words and what to consider before speaking. The message did not contain anything I had not heard before, but it did give me an acronym that I use every day: THINK. “T” stands for thoughtful, “H” for helpful, “I” is for inspirational, “N” for necessary and “K” for kind.
That has been a lifesaver for me on more than one occasion. While I am far from being perfect, taking a split second to THINK before speaking has made a significant difference in my relationships.
THINK reminds me that it is always best to use words I would want to hear in a tone that would elicit a positive response.
Inspire, rather than prod
There will come a day when we will no longer be around, yet our reputation and legacy will remain. We get to influence what that reputation may be by the words we speak and write.
Certainly, corrections are needed at times; however, a correction can be given in a manner that is inspiring rather than harsh. We can choose words and the tone of our voice, which demonstrate our desire to lead rather than prod. Because we are leaders, we must be consistent in demonstrating to others that we understand the power of words.
We can all remember times when unknowingly, someone has made a statement that impacted us in a significant way. Taking just that split second to THINK has the potential to make the difference between sending a message of encouragement or disaster.
Vistage International in the St. Louis area
Vistage provides professionally facilitated peer advisory experiences that help CEOs, business owners and key executives grow their business.
Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was obviously aimed at personal relationships, but when a new hire has to be dismissed, breaking up is hard to do.
No one hires a new team member with failure as the goal. In terms of real world situations, 46 percent of new hires fail in the first 18 months, according to a 2012 report by PR News. And when CareerBuilder researched the cost of a bad hire in 2012, 41 percent of companies reported costs to the organization in excess of $25,000.
Those are substantial monetary costs, not to mention the costs in ways that aren’t so measurable, i.e., loss of credibility of the individual responsible for the hire, negative employee morale, loss of customer/client support and lost productivity. Why does this happen, and what can be done to significantly lessen a negative outcome? Let’s look at three stages that can help avert a bad hire.
Review criteria for the position
Urgency to fill a position is cited as the primary reason new hires fail. Under urgent conditions, a review of job requirements has seldom been accomplished, making the likelihood of the interview process being done well improbable.
If the individual responsible for the hiring process does not have a complete understanding of what this new hire is responsible for, as well as the ability to communicate corporate culture attitudes relative to this position, the interview process will operate under less than ideal circumstances. Taking time for a complete review of the position and establishing skills and attributes necessary for a successful hire is imperative for success.
Create a brand ambassador
The first day a new hire enters the work place offers a unique opportunity for him or her to become a brand ambassador. While getting all the proper documentation for employment is absolutely necessary, it doesn’t need to take place in the first hour.
Imagine how nice it would feel to walk into a new office with signage ready to go, branded golf shirt/pen/mug on the desk and business cards already done.
The on-boarding process is too often relegated to filling out forms, introductions and handshakes. What a wasted opportunity to tell a new hire how he or she is a valued member of the team.
Establish goals and objectives
Of course, the reason someone is hired is to perform certain tasks, achieve goals and contribute to the success of an organization. When CareerBuilder asked about the definition of a bad hire, 67 percent of respondents reported that the quality of work was “lackluster.” This tremendously high percentage begs further questions concerning the process for establishing expectations and goals.
If expectations and goals are not discussed, agreement cannot be reached. Unless they are written down, along with identifying dates when they are to be accomplished, too often the parties involved assume everyone is on the same page.
Have the discussion, write down the goals and objectives using SMART criteria (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) and monitor the progress.
While there are no guarantees in the hiring process, take the time to review the job criteria, create a brand ambassador from day one, establish SMART goals and objectives from the beginning and beat the 46 percent that fail. ●
Julie Nimmons serves as a chair for Vistage International in the St. Louis area. Vistage provides professionally facilitated peer advisory experiences that help CEOs, business owners and key executives grow their business. She can be reached at (314) 301-9823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Vistage International, like its Facebook page www.facebook.com/Vistage and follow on Twitter @vistage. Connect with Julie Nimmons on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/julienimmons