Use “The Pronouns of Leadership” To Motivate Your Team

Mar 22, 2022 | Leadership, Management, Productivity

As a leader, you have three powerful tools (pronouns) that you can use to motivate your employees, build your team, and bring effective correction to a situation.

Three Leadership Pronouns Are: You, I, And We

When these pronouns are used correctly, they can build the business. However, when used incorrectly they will bring cynicism, distrust, and apathy to your team.

Leaders beware; use these pronouns with care!

Using “You” To Motivate (And Not Demoralize)

“You” can be used when giving credit and praise (i.e. talking about someone else’s successes). When singling out an individual for public praise, it is more honoring to use the person’s name.

Dale Carnegie taught us that Nothing sounds sweeter than the sound of hearing one’s own name.

When talking one-on-one, leader’s should use “you” when assigning responsibilities and delegating authority.

Loaded Language

Remember that “you” can also be a loaded word. It should not be used to berate or diminish a valued employee. Phrases like, “You always…”, or, “You never…”, can get you into trouble (unless you are giving credit or thanks).

In our life experiences, “you” too often has preceded a personal label or a perceived attack on our character, perhaps by a parent, teacher, coach or other authority figure. So give praise where it is deserved, and avoid the sandwich of adding on a critique.
Give praise where it is deserved, and avoid the sandwich of adding on a critique. Share on X

Frightening Experience

One of the most frustrating or frightening things for an employee is to have someone in authority (over them) use the term “you” as a finger pointer (especially in a group setting). Be careful not to use “you” in combination with saying something negative, less than 100% correct, or embarrassing about them.

Effective leaders are careful in group meetings to keep their employees feeling safe, not feeling exposed.
Effective leaders are careful in group meetings to keep their employees feeling safe, not feeling exposed. Share on X

Using “I” To Focus Attention (Not Steal Attention)

When does a leader use “I”?

One place to use “I” is when bringing correction or needed criticism. If a leader will admit one’s own mistakes or weaknesses this could be a way of making it safe to talk about situations that need to be corrected. Leaders should also talk about their own feelings, hopes and goals; (i.e. things “I” believe in).

Leaders should have no problem speaking about their personal values that they will expect to be shared by those they lead.

Give, Don’t Take, Credit

“I” can be misused to take credit for someone else’s work. It can damage your effectiveness if you make someone else’s success about you. They need to feel and get credit for their work (you personally may not feel the need for credit; but others do).

Using “We” To Build Up (Not Water Down)

When does a leader use “We”?

Use “we” when talking about big hurdles and changes the company has to make; anything that affects “us” as a group. When a leader says “we” it needs to be genuine and not just for show.

“We” is sometimes incorrectly used to spread around blame. Effective leaders will take the blame and say “It was my fault”.

Your Challenge – Become A Student Of Language And Prepare For Success

Next time you hold a meeting that is meant to persuade or motivate, think it through and script it with these three forms of speech. You (and they) will be happy you did!

Crush it this spring!

Regards, Jeffrey!